As fine arts curriculums hit the skids in school budget cutbacks, arts education takes center stage at the Towle Theater.
The curtain is going up at the downtown Hammond theater with expanding youth programs focusing on the performing arts. In the lead role is TED, mascot for the Towle Education Department.
The department is under the skilled direction of Shelley Crosby, back home in Hammond after a decade managing and artistically directing Chicago's American Girl Theater and a stint opening and casting American Girl theaters in Los Angeles and New York City. She grew up in Hessville, graduated from Morton High School and attended Indiana University Northwest.
Crosby, Towle managing director Jeff Casey, and Kevin Bellamy, administration director, are passionate in their understanding of the strong learning relationships between the arts and cognitive skills needed for reading, writing and mathematics as well as the intellectual, personal and social development the arts provide.
"We've seen what a difference it makes," Casey states. "While kids may take years to master a sport, we've seen the arts almost instantly change a child's self-esteem. They're good at it quickly as we encourage them to step out, give it their best shot, and have fun."
Next month the Towle's education program kicks off with All Things Theater Camp, a weeklong series of individually designed workshops on theater basics, stage movement, music, choreography, scene studies, monologues, and audition preparation for kids age 6 through 16.
The annual TED Musical Theater Camp auditions and three weeks of rehearsals for students age 6 to 15 gets down to business in July, culminating in the production of Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" July 30 and July 31 at the Towle.
In August the Towle Youth Theater Ensemble, a new resident acting and production company, will hold auditions/interviews for the first of its two annual shows, the highly acclaimed musical "13" on stage as a Midwest premier Oct. 13 at the Towle. Bert and Maryann Bibat, of Whiting, are underwriting the rights and royalties for the production. Company members will either be in the cast or technical staff.
This fall A Star in The Works will bring theater workshops focused on classic Broadway musicals to help fill scheduled gaps when schools are out for a single day.
The Towle's Saturday morning Breakfast & Books also begins this fall at Hammond's Lafayette School in partnership with the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, Indiana University Northwest and the Hammond Public Library.
Gearing up to tour schools is the Towle's own musical stage adaptation of Roger Bradfield's book "Pickle Chiffon Pie" promoting kindness and consideration for others. The Towle snagged Evan Rae, associate conductor for "Billy Elliot - Broadway Chicago," to write the music for its production.
The Towle's Readers Theater visits elementary schools in Hammond to read plays out loud to assist students with writing, vocabulary, reading fluency, story plots and character. Making Memories, centered around weekly book selections, is a partnership between the Towle, South Shore Arts and public libraries throughout Lake and Porter counties.
Further details are available at www.towletheater.com.
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