The Aiken Community Playhouse’s Youth Wing, as it exists now, began in 1997. At the first meeting held by Shannon Huey and Chuck Shick., there were only seven kids in attendance. In addition to Shannon and Chuck, the Youth Wing was also supported at this time by Nancy Hansen and Don and Jean Currier.
Their first show, “Our Town” was directed by Angie Fitzgerald French and was a joint venture between Aiken Community Playhouse and North Augusta High School. Shannon Huey remembers, “We didn’t have enough kids to put on a show, and they didn’t have money to stage a show. We performed the show at both locations and divided the costs and split the profits. It was beneficial to both organizations. We were able to raise our profile in the community, and NAHS had funding to start their own program, which is still going strong!”
One of the missions of the Youth Wing is to reach out to local schools to introduce more children to theater. This is accomplished through their Black Box productions in which the Youth Wing presents shows that complement school curriculum (i.e. Shakespeare, message plays).
The Youth Wing also tackles tough issues that kids face such as school violence and teen suicide. One major milestone was “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead,” a play about school violence. It was directed by Thurmond Whatley in March 2002. It was produced in conjunction with the Children’s Mental Health Task Force. Over 800 young people attended the three free performances as well as a number of state-level leaders. According to Nancy Hansen, “This show truly put us on the map, and we’ve been growing ever since.”
As It Stands Today
The Youth Wing has seen tremendous growth over the years and now boasts almost 70 members! Currently, the Youth Wing holds workshops on the second Saturday of every month from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Depending on their age and experience, they will be placed into one of four groups: The Bowman group, the Silverberg group, the Deans group, and the Cole group. These groups are headed up by Michele Kellrooney, Jennifer Gibbons, Nancy Hansen, and Jim Anderson. Also, guest directors often come in to help.
In addition to the monthly workshops, the Youth Wing currently puts on three shows each year: ACP Mainstage, Black Box, and Garden Theater. There are also opportunities for youth to audition for adult Mainstage and Black Box shows at ACP.
The Youth Wing is not only great for learning theater skills. You can learn skills for life. “The Youth Wing has helped become far more confident and outgoing. It has made me a better person all around,” says Youth Wing former Student President Stephen Ateca. Youth Wing Veteran Madison Anderson enthusiastically says, “I’ve developed a close personal family that I can count on no matter what. You can be your crazy self and they will always love you!”
The ACP Youth Wing is open to students in the 4th through 12th grades and no auditions or pre-registration is required to join. The Youth Wing offers scholarships in honor of Will Cole, Parker Deans and Joan Silverberg to dedicated members who are graduating high school. All members will have the opportunity to learn acting fundamentals, improvisation skills, stage movement, and voice projection. Technical aspects of the theatre, including set construction, set design, and lighting design are also presented during the monthly meetings.