On Stage

Cue the lights, please. In rooms small and large, some even sporting curtains, children are filling stages all over the Vineyard these days. Many debuted not long ago at the Vineyard Playhouse through its wonderful fourth grade theatre project. Others are finding their spotlight in spring productions staged in school gyms or cafeterias.

Some of their lines will be delivered with punch, some mumbled, some forgotten entirely until whispered from the wings. But listen carefully and what you really hear is the flint of imagination.

Island kids are blessed with myriad opportunities in drama, from preschool creative drama classes, to the Island Theatre Workshop’s program for young people, to the excellent high school program which, with its winter show, A Chorus Line, showed that school theatre is not just for parents around here.

No wonder that as the young performers grow, some are recognized as emerging professionals; the Vineyard’s teen sketch comedy troupe, IMP, last year was invited to the prestigious Chicago Improv Festival. IMP’s founder, Donna Swift, who teaches drama throughout the Vineyard school system, writes marvelous original productions with colleagues Linda Berg and Ross Mihalko. The first of these has just been picked up by publishers, so the musical premiered here can be performed by children everywhere.

Research abounds evidencing the positive effects of drama on reading and other academic skills. Other benefits to the young actors are harder to quantify but equally important: self-confidence, pride, and treasured memories of a moment that was truly their own.

To all those now getting ready for their close-up, or getting nervous about it, or just remembering it, bravo.