The Young Actors Guild (YAG), a Rensselaer Union-sponsored program, will be entering its 20th season this fall. The nonprofit theater organization is best known for teaching the performing arts to students ages 8 to 18.
“We are seeing creative arts and theater arts in particular quickly moving out of the experience of our children’s education,” said Mary D’Amico, director of the Young Actors Guild. “Budget cuts and reduced staffing in all of our schools result in a net loss for any kind of creative learning for our kids. Our program provides students with an outlet to learn and explore the performing arts.”
More than 65 children from more than 40 Capital Region elementary, junior high, and high schools put their acting talents to the test this summer on campus. The students participated in a five-week summer program that included classes in acting, dance, movement, music, cartooning, stage combat and creative writing taught by professionals.
In honor of its anniversary this year, the troupe staged Anne of Green Gables, the first full-scale musical production YAG graced the stage with some 20 years ago. The production is based on the novel written by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery that was published in 1908. More than 60 students participated in the five-night run performance held during the month of August.
YAG also produced a show for adults titled Is There Life After High School, performed by college interns and high school counselors in training. The play explored the life-long impact of high school experiences. The program also served as the annual intern fundraiser to support YAG.
In keeping with the program’s mission to encourage creation of original art, YAG also produced an evening of original works by Ian Politis, who began studying at YAG when he was 7. He is now studying writing in college, D’Amico said. The band “Dinosours Rule the Earth,” comprised of young men who grew up at YAG who are now studying at various colleges, also provided entertainment.
“Theater is a great opportunity for children to explore, not only their creativity, but the person that they are inside,” said D’Amico, “The changes happen very subtly, and as they work with other actors and explore material that they’re working with, it brings up lessons in life that they may not have explored otherwise. The mission of the program is to encourage self-discovery by providing an environment where children can enhance their self-expression, stimulate their imaginations, and develop strong self-esteem.”
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