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Stepping into New Worlds at Artbarn

By S. Mathur

Artbarn is a nonprofit program in Brookline MA that works to introduce children from kindergarten through high school to the joy of theater. Along the way, they build social skills and confidence - and learn to stretch their imaginations.

"Theater is an extraordinary thing for young people because it allows them a safe space to explore, create and connect," says Chloe Lara-Russack, who is Executive Co-Director at Artbarn alongside Matthew Kossack. "Through their own creation of character they get to step into an infinite number of new worlds, different shoes, and diverse perspectives."

Theater allows for unique opportunities to both empathize with others and explore hidden aspects of oneself, suggests Lara-Russack. "Our more quiet actors might have an opportunity to be big and loud because they are playing the part of the Wicked Witch, where a more vociferous actor learns how to be the observer in a more ensemble based character. In the process we emphasize the significance of the ensemble: theater is indeed a team sport and only when we work together, play together will the show truly find its magic."

Artbarn's programs are open to all children who are interested on a first-come, first-served basis and are segmented by age. Whimsically named named programs range from Sprouts for pre-K and Kindergarten kids, to the Duck Soup Troupe for third and fourth graders, to Horsin' Around Improv for grades six through twelve. On the first day of rehearsal, everyone auditions - and the beautiful thing is, everyone gets a part.

The only exception, notes Lara-Russack, is Out of the Box, an audition-based traveling troupe for kids in grades four to six. The kids in the Out of the Box company take an original piece on the road - to all eight Brookline elementary schools!

The Field Mice Players, a program for children in first and second grade, in unique in that the process does not begin with with a script. "We begin with 32 actors and an idea," says Lara-Russack. The young actors spend the first three weeks using improvisation to develop the storylines and characters that will evolve into a script. "Ultimately, the actors become the visionaries, the writers and the performers," says Lara-Russack. "It is a truly special process and is often times one where the actors take their first steps on to the stage. I am always honored to be part of these first moments."

What is the best part of all of this? "The magic," declares Lara-Russack. "The moment when you see a young actor realize that they have done something great, surmounted their own fears and created an unforgettable moment. To see the pride sparkle from their eyes is something I am always so honored to witness. I also work with some of the most talented, compassionate, loving group of human beings. The magic exists because of this Barn team."

Summer 2016 will come with the launch of Summer at the Barn- Artbarn's first-ever summer program. Learn more at artbarn.org.

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