JCC Expands Youth Theater Program

Northbrook's Jewish Community Center will offer new theater classes for kids between 3 and 18 years old.

Beginning in September, the Jewish Community Center Young Actors Ensemble will add new classes at the , , Rogers Park and Hyde Park locations. 

“We wanted to create more opportunities for kids interested in theater,” said Robert Bouwman, JCC Children’s Theater Manager.

JCC Young Actors Ensemble (YAE) youth performance group produces 3 to 4 plays and musicals per year, which require daily rehearsals over a period of several months.

“Independent classes offer more one-on-one time for teaching and skill development and provide a taste of theater for those who may not be able to commit the time for an entire production run,” Bouwman said.

Classes will be taught by theater professionals and actors. Each seven-week class will end with a performance showcase.

  • Little Movers and Shakers: Designed for kids ages 3 to 5, introduces theater through music, puppets, stories and games to facilitate creative development. 
  • Exploring the Art of Acting: A class for third through sixth graders that uses children’s literature and storytelling to inspire creation of original plays and promote imaginative thinking through theatre games. 
  • Creative Drama: A class for seventh to twefth graders that requires experience and an audition. The class emphasizes script analysis, character development, relationships and stage presence. Students will study classic authors such as Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare and Edward Albee. 
  • “J”-prov!: JCC’s popular improvisation workshop is back for the third year. Fifth through twefth graders will learn how to build an ensemble, create interesting characters, sketch comedy and explore improvisation techniques.

“There’s a long tradition of using theater to explore Judaism and Jewish identity,” said Bouwman. “Theater has been influenced by renowned Jewish directors, playwrights, actors, characters and even theatergoers. Through these expanded class offerings, we’re nurturing and guiding the next generation of vibrant Jewish theater.” 

This fall marks Bouwman’s third year managing JCC Children’s Theater. The new classes are part of several innovations he has brought to the JCC Theater program, including improv classes, JCC’s first sci-fi musical (Bouwman’s original work, Mileep and the Attack of the Jellybean People), unique costumes and sets, and increased adult participation. He has written, directed and performed in over 50 original plays, including musicals for children and a one-man show in Scotland. He is also the co-founder and artistic director of Corn Productions, a storefront theater in Chicago. 

Classes begin at the end of September and run through November. Visit gojcc.org/theater for specific dates and locations. Upcoming JCC Young Actors Ensemble productions include, The Aantsy Aardvark, Jan. 24 to Feb. 3 and Once Upon a Mattress, May 2 to 12.

Auditions for The Aantsy Aardvark will take place Nov. 12, 13 and 15. For details, contact Robert Bouwman at rbouwman@gojcc.org or call (847) 763-3514. 
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