Pella Chronicle

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

October 2, 2012

Helping young people find their niche

OSKALOOSA — This program can help area young people do more than just express themselves artistically.

George Daily Community Auditorium’s Youth Theatre program, which includes both summer and after school opportunities, has been active since the late 1990s.

Amy Yarnell, president of the Friends of the Auditorium, said having been in theater herself, she sees the importance of a youth theater program in Oskaloosa. She said it helps many children find their niche.

“I’ve actually had a parent tell me, you know, ‘My kid was lost. My kid was weird before we found the theater and now he’s found his people,’” said Yarnell.

Jessica Vetter, operations manager at George Daily, agreed, saying youth theater is vital when it comes to a child’s development. She said theater gives sometimes shy students confidence and a voice where they may not have had one at all.

“These are the kids that couldn’t find their voices through traditional means and somehow this act of taking on another character has taught them about themselves,” Vetter said.

Yarnell explained that when children learn theater through their program, they begin to understand how to work with others in a team setting, how to take the time to do things right and how to have responsibility.

“It’s a lot of those things,” Yarnell said. “It’s not just how to be on stage.”

Vetter said learning how to be flexible in working with others and working with what they have are also valuable skills taught through the youth theater program.

Randall Wright, executive director for George Daily Community Auditorium, taught high school English for many years. Back in 1998, one of Wright’s former high school theater students, Cara Gerlock, came to him wanting to start a theater program for the young people of Oskaloosa, said Wright.

Wright said the program was met with success from the beginning. He said Gerlock ran the program for two years and that, since then, they have had different directors.

Since its inception, there have been people who have caused it to have significant growth, noted Wright. Today, the program has evolved to the point where the youth theatre director position can be a full time position, said Wright.

George Daily is currently seeking a youth theatre director. To find out more about the position, visit http://www.georgedaily.org/opportunities/youth-theatre-director/.

After starting as a summer program for area youth, Daily Youth Theatre would eventually include an after school program, which runs September through April.

Vetter said the age range for young people involved in the Daily Youth Theatre program includes children from first through 10th grades.

During their most recent summer program for young people, there was an average of 36 students per week, with their largest week involving 56 children, noted Vetter.

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