Page 10 - Scene Magazine February 2022 47-02
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BY JACOB GATES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FRANKE CENTER FOR THE ARTS
 today face a barrage of choices for possi- ble activities: soccer, dance, swimming, gymnastics, art, band, orchestra, robotics club – the
list goes on and on. At the same time, many students still struggle to find their place, a community that kindles their in- terest, and an activity that draws out their talents and their human potential. The Franke Center for the Arts Youth Theater program (FCYT) provides such a place for the students who call it home.
FCYT produces plays four times a year, providing kindergarten through 12th grade students opportunities to experi- ence acting, dancing, and singing. FCYT is led by a strong group of professionals that instill teamwork, discipline, and, most importantly, a sense of fun and play. With each play they produce, the program attracts anywhere from 50-75 students from Marshall, Battle Creek, Olivet, Ho- mer, and beyond.
For students who prefer to be behind the scenes, FCYT also has an appren- ticeship program which brings middle
10 SCENE 4702 I EDUCATION ISSUE
school and high school students into the Franke to learn lighting, sound engi- neering, stage management, set build- ing, costume creation, and more. Men- tored by professionals, these students learn set-up, design, and operation in all the aspects of what happens behind the scenes in theater. As the program has developed, high school students are now responsible for these aspects of all FCYT productions. These oppor- tunities not only benefit FCYT’s program by creating a core group of competent technicians, they also give the students marketable skills for a possible future career in theater production or other fields.
Success in a program like this isn’t the number of plays produced or tickets sold, it is measured in lives touched. After a recent production featuring 5th through 9th graders, the show’s direc- tor got a thank you note from one of
the young actresses. It thanked her for taking a chance on her in being cast in
a leading role. She explained how her self-confidence had grown through the experience and she would never forget it for the rest of her life.
This young actress isn’t alone. The Franke’s theater program has been around since the early 2000’s, so its alums have begun to reach adulthood and take stock of what FCYT has meant to their lives. One such alum is Josh Vreeland. Josh came up through the FCYT program as a young actor. When he graduated, he attended Western Michigan University and majored in vocal performance with a concentration in Opera. He recently returned to Marshall while he applies to graduate programs and directed FCYT’s recent production of Beauty and the Beast Jr. Broadway actor and dancer Beau Hutchings, who also choreographs shows for FCYT, is another actor who got his start on the Franke’s stage and has returned to give back to the artistic community that first nurtured him.
FCYT doesn’t limit their programming to the stage. With their Expert Artists program, the Franke places performers, poets, and visual artists in Marshall and Battle Creek Public Schools in a special program that melds the arts with existing curriculum. Students benefit from the en- richment the arts provide while teachers
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