Community praises Chicago Street Theatre’s education program

Community praises Chicago Street Theatre’s education program
By: Kayla Belec Last Updated: March 2, 2020

An excellent local theater provides multiple levels of engagement to its community, not the least of which is the opportunity to become involved, to learn through the art form, and engage on a more interactive level. The educational programs of Chicago Street Theatre (CST) help positively shape the social and educational experiences of youth and adults in the Region. In fact, CST programs are changing lives for the better.

Available to both youth and adults, CST’s classes boast a comprehensive and unique curriculum, where students are provided with the consistency of comprehensive program through which they can progress and advance, as opposed to occasional classes with different instructors each time. Since 1994, CST has offered young artists a comfortable, safe environment for exploring their creative side, both on stage and behind the scenes.

“Chicago Street Theatre has played an integral part in our lives for the past nine years. Our son has grown by leaps and bounds through their classes and productions, not just as an actor but also personally,” said Molly S. of Chesterton. 

“The CST program is where my daughter met her best friends, who became her theatre family. She found acceptance and was able to express herself in a fun, safe environment,” said Lynette O. of Westville. “The classes impacted her life so much that she is now going to college to pursue a career in theatre.”

The inherent philosophy behind CST’s educational opportunities is to provide a hands-on experience where students learn by doing—not by lecture. With classes acting as a stepping stone to other levels of participation, many students find that they discover other outlets at CST to continue growing.

“When our oldest was nine years old, we were looking for venues other than sports for him to participate in our community. During our search, we found Chicago Street Theatre,” said Kimberly Q. of Valparaiso. “We did not know at the time how much CST would mean to us, not just for and to him, but to our family. He has flourished in a way that we could not have imagined otherwise in an environment suited for growth. The opportunity to not only be out front on stage, but to also intern as a lighting designer has aided in his confidence, creativity, and ability to critically think.”

CST encourages a complete understanding and appreciation of live theatre. Through CST’s Apprentice Program, students train and volunteer, learning practical skills, leadership, and confidence behind the scenes.

“Now at 16, he has grown immensely under the tutelage of his teacher Lisa and his lighting/sound mentor Marsha,” Kimberly continued. “He has had the privilege to have a little bit of himself revealed each time while working with the directors on plays he has been involved in, whether it was on stage or in the booth. It has been his home away from home where he has made amazing friends and mentors we call family.”

Professional and experienced faculty, veteran artists, and an ensemble-based community atmosphere enhance students’ experiences. Since Lisa Formosa-Parmigiano joined CST as Director of Education in 2008, she has been working diligently to expand and professionalize the program, including establishing the only Teen Ensemble program in Northwest Indiana. A professor at Columbia College in Chicago saddled with a Master of Fine Arts from the Actors Studio Drama School in NYC, Formosa-Parmigiano has proven that her hands-on method works. More than 300 students have signed up for classes each year and she’s received a slew of praise from them.  

“Miss Lisa truly cares for each of her students,” Molly said. “She lovingly pushes them toward excellence, and encourages teamwork, self-discipline, and respect.”

“Lisa is not only a teacher, but a mentor and a friend,” Lynette said.

Kathleen E. of Valparaiso recalled signing up her grandson, Trey, for CST classes at age 5. She said Trey and his family immediately took to Formosa-Parmigiano’s method, and that the content she chose to focus on in class was enriching for students.

“I, too, have benefitted from classes offered by Lisa for adults,” Kathleen said. “I have been fortunate to work closely with Lisa on a number of productions and have witnessed first hand how she guides the actors to find their characters, instilling their own creativity. She approaches each class and production with love, humor, and professionalism, putting everyone at ease to get the most out of them.”

“The theatre and its members are extremely privileged to have Lisa as the Director of Education,” Kathleen continued. “She is teaching the children how to respect the theatre and giving them the best foundation for a future in theatre arts, if they so choose.”

In the classroom at CST, students focus on the importance of creative expression and collaboration, and learn the fundamentals of theatre through structured play. Classes enhance performance skills and develop concentration, self-esteem, discipline, and problem solving. 

“We feel incredibly fortunate to have Chicago Street Theatre’s excellent educational programs available for children in our community,” said Patti K. of Valparaiso. “We love that our own two children have increased their confidence in expressing themselves, have broadened their imagination and communication skills, have learned about people of different backgrounds, have been exposed to great literature—and all in a fun, safe environment.”

To learn more about Chicago Street Theatre and the many educational opportunities available to students, visit https://chicagostreet.org/.