To understate: These are uncertain times. Times that raise questions and epiphanies; fears and, sometimes, joy; times which want expression.
We all need vehicles through which we can tap imagination and creativity, self-discovery and understanding. Kids, though, may need such vehicles more than the rest of us - and now more than ever.
What can't yet be fully articulated in words might be witnessed in a drawing or a characterization, in a dance piece or a musical performance.
Perhaps tops in the litany of uncertainties is what virus variants might do to the best-laid plans. With that in mind, here's a look at all our area has - or hopes - to offer to kids and teens this fall. Note that every group canvassed is committed to following all reliable guidelines and recommendations regarding pandemic-times safety.
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• Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center (brattleboromuseum.org), at 10 Vernon St., hosts its 14th annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza Oct. 17 at 5:30 p.m., followed by a screening of Lily Topples the World, the award-winning documentary film about Lily Hevesh's rise as a domino artist.
The Annual Lego contest and exhibit returns in November, dates to be announced, and plans for drop-in activities and guided tours with area organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers/Big Sisters are in the works.
• Brattleboro Music Center (bmcvt.org). BMC, the handsome complex at 72 Blanche Moyse Way, has returned largely to in-person lessons and classes - with safety protocols in place. Fall semester for youth features beginning Celtic classes (online only), the BMC String Orchestra, BMC Youth String Ensemble, and BMC Flute Choir.
• Brattleboro School of Dance (brattleboroschoolofdance.com). With ample safety precautions in place, BSD is offering classes in person for ages 3 and up this fall in ballet, tap, burlesque, modern, jazz, house/club dance, Dunham, hip-hop, creative dance for little ones, as well as fitness/somatics classes. Classes will be held at BSD's new home at 181-183 Main St.
• Brattleboro Union High School offers a fall play, winter musical, and spring play with ample performance and tech crew opportunities. The program is free and open to all BUHS students.
Director Rebekah Kersten explains, “All students have access to the theater arts as an integral part of their high school education, and they have the opportunity in the theater arts to discover and harness the creativity they have within themselves, thereby feeling empowered to use their voices as they journey into adulthood.”
In terms of pandemic, she adds: “At this moment, we are planning live, in-person performances [...] with a limited audience. Cast, crew, and audience members will be masked, according to current safety guidelines and district requirements.” Questions regarding BUHS theater opportunities can be emailed to [email protected].
In music, BUHS offers jazz band and jazz workshop, a madrigal group, chorus, band, and participation in various music festivals. Again, these activities are free and open to all BUHS students. Similar activities are offered at middle school level.
• Brooks Memorial Library, 224 Main Street, Brattleboro, has a lot of ongoing activities and special programs for children and teens, such as Rhyme Time for preschoolers, Read to a Dog, or book discussion groups for teens. Visit brookslibraryvt.org or follow the library on Facebook to keep up with the latest offerings.
• Kelly's Dance Academy (kellys-dance-academy.com), 642 Putney Rd., Brattleboro, offers tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, lyrical, acrobatic, and baton lessons to kids and teens.
• Leland and Gray Union Middle/High School, on the Common, Townshend. The L&G Players are staging Mamma Mia! this fall. Meeting after school primarily, the Players, Director Sam Chapin says, offer “loads of different opportunities for students: actors, singers, dancers, artists, musicians, techies, costumers - the list goes on!”
Leland & Gray students interested in participating should email [email protected].
The Players' mission, Chapin adds, “is to create an atmosphere of inclusion and tolerance, enabling performers to create authentic and powerful works of art.”
“Last year Covid forced us to make a lot of changes,” Chapin continues. “We put on a masked, full-length production of Much Ado About Nothing and had it filmed by a professional crew. Going into this year, we feel confident that we will be able to stage a musical with a live audience (even if socially distanced!).”
After-school music at L&G includes middle and high school jazz bands, pep band, drum line, jazz band, an a cappella group, and participation in various music festivals.
“We aim,” says music director Rene Bernard, “to allow all students to experience the joy of performing on instruments and singing live music.”
• New England Center for Circus Arts (necenterforcircusarts.org), 10 Town Crier Drive, Brattleboro, offers many levels of instruction and a variety of specialties for kids and teens, including trampoline, trapeze, aerial silks, tumbling, juggling.
It offers that instruction in a variety of formats, including multi-week sessions, private lessons, camps, and even birthday parties.
According to Serenity Smith Forchion, NECCA's co-founder, “[At NECCA] the transformative power of circus arts enables a diverse and inclusive community of artists, teachers, and students to realize their dreams.”
“Specific to kids and teens, we view circus as a physical and creative activity that offers empowering,” she continues.
• New England Youth Theatre (neyt.org), 100 Flat St., Brattleboro. The Senior Company (ages 12–19) will present Beauty and the Beast as NEYT's holiday musical, and the Junior Company (ages 9–12) will perform Buried Moon.
Additional offerings explore all aspects of theater-making in a variety of classes and one-day workshops, including the Page to Stage, a senior acting workshop, an improv workshop, and a number of production and design workshops.
As noted in its mission, NEYT is “a youth-centered community creating space and mentorship for young people to discover the confidence and skills to engage the world by making theater together.”
• River Gallery School of Art (rivergalleryschool.org), 32 Main St., Brattleboro. The creative process at RGS is a mentored artistic exploration that leads to transformation, empowerment, and joy.
This fall, RGS intends to hold in-studio classes, with teachers and students masked, and with attention to safe Covid practices.
After-school studio classes for children and teens with the RGS staff of teachers/artists focus on nurturing each child's individual creativity and imagination with one-on-one instruction and interaction, with good-quality art materials provided.
RGS has four separate rooms where kids can spread out and have room to explore, individually or in collaboration.
• The Choir School at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, (stmichaels-vt.org), Bradley Ave., Brattleboro, a youth choral program, nurtures student achievement through quality music education and the joy of choral singing.
Founded in 2014 by Susan Dedell, it offered three age levels pre-pandemic, fostering poise, respect of self and others, commitment, leadership, and teamwork.
The Choir School usually presents an original staged work once a year. All programs are free and open to all youth who love to sing and want to learn more.
The program is sponsored by St. Michael's Episcopal Church, but no church affiliation of any kind is required. The Choir School is on temporary hold pending student vaccination rollouts. Check the website for updates.
• Sandglass Theater (sandglasstheater.org), 17 Kimball Hill Rd, Putney. In addition to Puppets in Paradise [story, B1], Sandglass will premiere a new family show by Shoshana Bass and Jana Zeller: Oma, an intergenerational tale that revolves around Grandma or “Oma.”
According to Bass, “We do not yet know what form our premiere will take, as it is contingent upon developing safety guidelines.”
The next significant offering for family audiences will be the Winter Sunshine Series in March 2022.
• Vermont Jazz Center (vtjazz.org), Cotton Mill Hill, Brattleboro, aims to use the power of jazz to raise consciousness, to reach out to people of all ages, and to provide experiences where diversity is welcome and becomes more familiar.
This fall, the VJC offers a hybrid educational program giving participants both online and in-person options.
A youth jazz ensemble for students age 12 and older will be held Tuesday afternoons at the Jazz Center; access to private lessons is also available with juried instructors.
For information, email Ginger Morawski.
• The Weston Playhouse Theatre Company (westonplayhouse.org) in Weston presents for its School Matinee Series, The Mountaintop by Katori Hall.
A playful, moving exploration of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., it's set during the final night of his life.
Teachers can register their classes online for one of several affordable performances open to high school students and home-schooled teens throughout Vermont.
Weston Playhouse aims to foster a love of theater, deepen a collective capacity for empathy, and cultivate critical thinking skills among students and audience members of all ages.
Here's hoping area youth can all access the arts this fall and discover the affirmation and growth that creative engagement can yield.