Q&A with Scott Letscher of Adventure Stage Chicago

Today, I am pleased to welcome Scott Letscher of Adventure Stage Chicago, located in the West Town neighborhood.

Adventure Stage Chicago (ASC) creates dynamic
and transformative theatre for young audiences that activates the
imagination, inspires dialogue and strengthens community among families,
educators and artists. ASC is one of Chicago's premier
destinations for theatrical productions and programming designed for
young people aged 9 to 14 and the adults in their lives. ASC is a
leader in theatre education through professional development workshops,
residencies and resources that offer innovative ways to infuse theatre
into the classroom.
Last season, ASC served over 5,000 students from 76 schools throughout
the Chicagoland area and over 1,500 audience members with the weekend
matinees.

I asked Scott a few questions about the programming at ASC and his general thoughts on kids and live theater. Here is what he had to say:

(1) Why is live theater important for kids? What are some of the
benefits that you have seen in your work with kids?

I believe
theatre is important for kids in the same way I believe it is important
for all ages. The need to tell a story to someone else in a shared space
has always been an essential part of the human experience. In terms of
our theater specifically, we design our programming for young people
ages 9-14. Our plays feature young main characters of the same age range
that are grappling with questions of identity, community and morality.
We also give our audience the opportunity to talk to the actors after
every performance. We have found that this safe environment allows
children to reflect upon and explore real-world situations that they may
be dealing with. Plus, all that said, the plays we choose are exciting,
imaginative and fun. There's nothing like a theater full of energized
kids.
(2) Tell us about some of the opportunities
you have for kids who want to get into theater?

We have an
in-school residency program called Neighborhood Bridges that teaches
critical literacy skills through performance. However, we also hold a
series of workshops for kids throughout the school year called Holiday
Drama Kids. These workshops are one to three days and happen when the
kids have school off. The workshops have ranged from puppetry to
mask-making and performance to playwrighting. We also have a two week
summer camp called Theatre Adventure Camp that teaches kids drama skills
from basic voice and movement techniques up to performing monologues
and scenes.

(3) Of course, not all kids aspire to be stage
actors. For kids who are a little bit more shy or inhibited, how can
they benefit from the experience of watching live theater?

The
stories kids can see on our stage will often reflect struggles and
questions they are dealing with themselves. Sometimes the situation on
stage may be extreme (Hurricane Katrina, for example) but we feel the
kids can get a new perspective on their own lives through sharing the
ride with the characters in the play. The post-show conversations also
give children an safe opportunity to ask questions, or if they are shy,
to at least listen and gain a deeper understanding.

(4) Tell us about some of the opportunities coming up at ASC this
summer?

Our summer is focused on Theatre Adventure Camp. It runs
from August 2-13, Monday-Friday. There are actually two sessions,
morning and afternoon. Kids can attend one or the other or both. The
camp culminates with a performance by the campers for friends and family
on the second Friday.

(5) The Family Matinee
program sounds particularly cool. Tell us more about that experience.

Our productions are always made up of Education Matinees (weekday
mornings for school groups) and Family Matinees on the weekends, usually
Saturday afternoon. Whereas the format of performance followed by a
conversation with the actors is similar for all shows, it's a different,
sometimes richer, feeling when the house is filled with families. We're
trying to find a common emotional place between young and old (or at
least older) where the whole family can get caught up in the story. Even
within my own family, we keep discussing the plays for days after we
see them.

(6) Your website indicated that your
Education Department produces a Learning Guide to go along with your
productions. Can you explain more about that? How can parents use that
as a resource?

Merissa Shunk, our Director of Education, puts
together a detailed learning guide full of information about the play.
The guides usually contain a synopsis of the story, insights from the
director and actors, background on the world of the play and activities
that are based on elements or themes of the story. Merissa designs the
guide with teachers in mind, but we have found parents find them
valuable as well, either to help prepare the family to see the play or
to continue the experience after attending the theater. We make all of
our learning guides available on our website.

(7)
Are your programs able to reach kids from all over the city?

We
draw our school audiences from all over Chicago and even from Indiana
and Wisconsin. Our families predominantly come from the city, starting
in our West Town neighborhood and reaching north to Rogers Park.

(8) How can parents get in touch with you if they want to know more
about upcoming summer programming?

You can always find
information about all our programs on our website. We can
also be reached by phone (773-342-4141) at our office, Monday-Friday,
9:00am-5:00pm.

Have a look at the photo gallery to see pictures from some recent performances at ASC.

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