Chicago Street Theatre invites youth to engage creatively and safely in spring classes

Chicago Street Theatre invites youth to engage creatively and safely in spring classes

Realizing the need to keep the arts alive through this unusual time, Chicago Street Theatre’s education programs will continue onsite this spring with safety protocols in place for all students.

CST Director of Education Lisa Formosa-Parmigiano said there continues to be a demand for in-person classes even in the current COVID-19 pandemic. Results from a survey taken by students last summer revealed that 90 percent of those in educational programs wished to continue classes at the theatre, located at 154 W. Chicago Street in Valparaiso, as opposed to an online method such as web video conferencing.

“It was a big surprise to me,” Formosa-Parmigiano said, adding that the survey results demonstrated a need to keep classes moving forward last year when pandemic restrictions took effect. “I didn’t want to throw up my hands and say, ‘That’s it.’ That wouldn’t be fair to the kids who had enrolled.”

Implementing safety procedures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the Indiana State Board of Health, the classes require everyone to wear masks while in the building (CST will provide masks if students need one), undergo a wellness temperature check and ask anyone to stay home if they have a fever, cough or other respiratory symptoms, or if they have had known contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The theater has also installed hand sanitizing stations throughout the building and disinfects high-touch surfaces on a frequent basis.

Classroom capacities will stay limited for further precaution with a maximum of six students. Students and educators are directed to maintain a safe distance from each other.

Spring 2021 youth classes will run from the week of Feb. 22 to May 20 with a showcase week scheduled for May 17-20. With a gardening theme, there is the “Seeds” class for grades 1-2, the “Sprouts” class for grades 3-4, the “Buds” class for grades 5-6, and the “Blooms” class for grades 7-9. Each class has beginner and intermediate levels. An advanced level class is being offered for the “Buds” class.

Parents wanting to find out more about the classes are encouraged to attend an open house that will take place on Saturday, Feb. 13 in CST’s lobby from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (masks and social distancing will be required).

Although safety practices have made some impact on the way classes will run, Formosa-Parmigiano said the class curriculum will essentially remain the same. Beginner and intermediate students will be introduced to elements of what theater is, from learning the importance of staging to how to approach performance as an actor. 

“The goal is for them to appreciate theater as a whole art form, not just the performance end of it,” said Formosa-Parmigiano, who has taught at CST since 2008 and is also an adjunct professor at Columbia College in Chicago.

Mask worn for safety can be seen as a disadvantage for the actor while performing, Formosa-Parmigiano said, but it’s challenged her students to be creative in new ways.

“We’ve learned a lot as we have adjusted. Since students cannot show their facial expressions while wearing a mask, they’ve learned to rely more on their body language. Their feelings have to now come through their actions. They start to notice different things,” she said.

Advanced students from the youth classes will have the opportunity to participate further in CST’s Teen Ensemble, which culminates with the annual Teen Festival each spring. Participation in the Ensemble is by invitation only.

Additionally, youth can get further involved in the technical aspects of theater production in apprentice programs and internships, such as “Booth Camp” that features hands-on experience with lighting and sound design within CST’s tech booth. 

The courses are structured to help youth participating grow by being more confident in their abilities to communicate, empathize and cope with personal struggles, which all may be more important during the pandemic, Formosa-Parmigiano said. “We discuss in class what (students) are going through, what’s relevant to them. There are the arts and humanities, but there are also life skills.”

Registration for classes this spring will be open through Tuesday, Feb. 16. Tuition for each semester youth class is $175.50 which includes materials. An online registration form and payment information can be found at Scholarships and discounts are available.

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