Learning through theatre

Everyone's familiar with the iconic scene from the fairy tale "Cinderella" in which Prince Charming puts Cinderella's glass slipper on her foot and finds it's the perfect fit. In the original story, Cinderella was the only person in town who could fit into the shoes. However, in UNI's Sturgis Youth Theatre's upcoming production, "The Glass Slipper: The Story of Cinderella," nine different girls will have the opportunity to wear the iconic shoes. This is because every student involved in the play will be cast in multiple roles.

Sturgis Youth Theatre
"The Glass Slipper: The Story of Cinderella" runs July 17-20 at UNI's Strayer-Wood Theatre. Tickets are $5 and go on sale July 1.

According to Gretta Berghammer, a professor in UNI's Department of Theatre and founder of Sturgis Youth Theatre, this gives participants insight into what it takes to put on a play. "It's important for me that they understand it takes a lot of people doing a lot of different things for a play to be successful," she said.

Founded in 2000, Sturgis Youth Theatre gives children in the Cedar Valley area the opportunity to participate in real theatre productions. Every summer, Sturgis Youth Theatre puts on a Summer Fun Production with community children who will be entering grades four or higher. This year's production will be performed Thursday, July 17 through Sunday, July 20 in the Bertha Martin Theatre in UNI's Strayer-Wood Theatre.

The program is a fun way to challenge the children and give them experience with different aspects of theatre production. "I think one of the successes of the program is that we've found a balance between putting the fun in the work," said Berghammer.

But Sturgis Youth Theatre isn't just about putting on plays. The program also gives UNI students the opportunity to gain experience working with children. This is especially valuable for sophomore theatre: drama and theatre for youth major Dylan Martin. Martin has been involved with the program for more than 10 years, first as a student in the classes. Today, as a "full-fledged employee" of the program, Martin has the chance to give children the same great experience she had.

"Sturgis Youth Theatre changed my life and was a huge part of shaping me into the person I am today," said Martin. "I love any opportunity to help other students have an experience like mine and feel the love and need for theatre that I have."

That desire to give back is actually what initially motivated Berghammer to start Sturgis Youth Theatre. "What inspired it was my own experiences as a young person doing theatre," she said. "I just knew how much I enjoyed it and the positive impact it had for me in developing confidence and exploring creative processes. I wanted to make that available for other young people as well."

In addition to the Summer Fun Production, Sturgis Youth Theatre offers summer classes for children who are too young to participate in the summer play, as well as after-school classes during the school year. There are also a variety of ways that UNI students can get involved, from internships to employment opportunities.

All of these opportunities reflect the program's main goal. "It's really about giving students a successful experience - one that challenges them a little bit, but one they can be successful at," said Berghammer.

For more information about Sturgis Youth Theatre, contact Berghammer at 319-273-2149 or gretta.berghammer@uni.edu, or visit uni.edu/theatre/swt/sturgis-youth-theatre/about.

**The photo on the home page is from the 2010-11 production of "Aladdin."