Arts Council program helps kids grow

Budding student thespians, future directors and theater enthusiasts from Clark County are finding a training ground with the Springfield Arts Council’s Youth Arts Ambassadors.

A hands-on program to teach students all aspects of the performing arts, Youth Arts Ambassadors tripled its membership recently to about 45 by opening it up to middle-school students as well as high school kids.

In addition to participating in various theater workshops over the school year, the Ambassadors are presenting their first production, “Into the Woods Jr.,” which will premiere Friday, Feb. 26 and Saturday, Feb. 27 at Ridgewood School.

“We’ve worked to find what the kids’ interests are,” said Krissy Hartman, who runs the program with Jordan Taylor.

The Ambassadors learn various theater crafts taught by experienced people, not just acting, but crew work such as training in technical aspects such as costumes, lighting, choreography and photography, and several are putting these skills to use on “Into the Woods Jr.”

Hartman said many involved in the production who took workshops showed up prepared for their auditions.

Sarah Wilson, a junior at Kenton Ridge High School, is getting a wider view of her interests and skills in her second year as an Ambassador.

It wasn’t until her interview for assistant director on “Into the Woods” she discovered what her true calling was and she is enjoying being stage manager for “Into the Woods Jr.”

“I help keep the whole show together,” she said. “I do reports,

Wilson has no desire to act, but would like to learn directing and is looking forward to a production during the Summer Arts Festival.

The Ambassadors have the option to work at the Festival, helping with various aspects.

“It’s not hard. It’s fun and a great way to meet new friends,” Wilson said.

Fellow Ambassador Anna Bielawski is one of the new middle school students. She faced a unique problem before joining — being home-schooled, she had no outlet for her theater passion.

Bielawski has been acting since age 5 and learned of the Ambassadors after acting in “Seussical Jr.” at last year’s Summer Art Festival.

“I don’t have a music class, so I rely on this. I come to as many things as I can,” she said.

Bielawski is performing as Rapunzel and is assistant music director on “Into the Woods Jr.”

She wants to pursue theater in college and is finding this the right place to start.

Hartman said she’d like to see more growth in the future, such as adding monologue and cabaret workshops.

“These kids are already more talented,” she said.

Area youths interested in joining the Youth Arts Ambassadors can apply for the program next fall. For more information, go online to

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