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Beyond the 4th Wall Is Making Musical Theater Accessible to All

By Pamela Sosnowski

For parents on a limited budget that have a budding thespian in the household, the cost of acting lessons often means their child's dream has to be put on hold. Beyond the 4th Wall of Cambridge is providing a way for kids and youth to hone their acting chops, however -- for free.

"We are proud to say we are the only free and low cost student musical theatre program offered in Cambridge," says Executive Director Lace Campbell. "We offer a free after school program to students from across the city to come together to perform in a Broadway-style musical for the greater Boston community to come enjoy. We pride ourselves in bringing youth together who normally would not necessarily interact."

Beyond the 4th Wall was founded to bring out the creativity in young theater enthusiasts and provide a supportive environment while entertaining audiences in the Cambridge area. "We train youth in acting, singing and dancing while cultivating a sense of community," says Campbell. "We foster self-esteem, confidence and professionalism as they learn to work together to create a successful show."

The theater company is enjoying a stellar season. Last year alone, they added twice as many rehearsals to accommodate its youngest performers, added more staff, and doubled the amount of scholarships offered to youth for their weekend programs. The organization relies on donations to fund its scholarships and programs. During the summer the troupe entertained in Little Shop of Horrors, and will be auditioning cast members for its next production, The Lion King, next month. The shows regularly sell out and are accompanied by a live orchestra and fully staged sets. Any Cambridge student in grades three through eight are welcome to try out for shows, and no prior experience is necessary.

In addition to the after school and weekend programs, Beyond the 4th Wall offers classes that require a registration fee for "young stars" (the youngest students), and two age groups of "rising stars", 7-10 and 11-13 year olds. Each class group gets to perform in a stage production upon completion, and the classes teach imagination, movement, singing, dancing, and more.

According to Campbell, acting enriches a child's life in more ways than one, and she enjoys seeing a young actor flourish in their new hobby and being able to touch the public community. "We want them to find new ways to express themselves and explore who they are and want to be," she says. "We want youth involved to see that contribution counts, no matter what it is, that they are important part of something bigger then themselves. That's what theatre can provide."

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