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Erik Burgess, Published July 07 2012

Trollwood to do after-school classes at area grade schools

FARGO – The Trollwood Performing Arts School is moving its stage again, but this time it’s only temporary.

And it’s for the kids.

Starting in September, Trollwood leaders will go to elementary schools for three-week intensive after-school classes, culminating in a musical performed by the kids at the school.

It’s the first time the performing arts school has brought classes out of the amphitheater in south Moorhead and into the schools, but it’s been on the minds of those at Trollwood for some time.

“We’re so excited to actually see that dream come full circle now,” said Joan Degerness, artistic director for this fall’s Traveling Children’s Theater.

Kennedy Elementary in south Fargo will host the program this fall. The school already has a theater program called Theater Stars, but in recent years, it has been overflowing with students.

“We’re looking at it as a great way to be able to involve a higher number of students in a theater program, because there does seem to be a desire for it,” said Jennifer Kapitan, a second-grade teacher and instructor in the school’s Theater Stars program.

On a small scale, Kapitan said, the new Trollwood option will give more Kennedy kids who want to be a part of a theater experience an opportunity to do so.

On a larger scale, once the program expands to more schools, it will provide a greater arts experience for students at an age where they might not get it otherwise.

“We wish our kids would’ve had that experience,” Degerness said of herself and Kathy Anderson, Trollwood’s executive director.

About 150 kindergarten through fifth-grade students will participate in the program’s after-school drama classes.

Third- through fifth-graders will have three weeks to put together a musical. “101 Dalmatians” is lined up for this fall. Younger students will prepare a pre-show for the musical.

Kennedy Principal Jerry Hanson said the parent-teacher organization at his school agreed to help sponsor the program to keep costs down.

“Our Kennedy PTA loves doing things that will involve a lot of kids,” he said.

Degerness will head a three-person Trollwood-hired teaching team, but Anderson said she is talking with local colleges to get student involvement.

“We want to give them a real professional experience,” Degerness said.

The traveling theater model is a program Degerness and Anderson hope will expand to other locations.

“That was actually one of my goals right away in taking this job, was to be able to expand our programming throughout the year and to be able to actually take this into the schools,” Anderson said.

She hopes to add another school, along with Kennedy, for this fall, but said some of the details have yet to be ironed out.

Trollwood doesn’t plan to expand the program to middle or high schools because the higher grades often have comprehensive arts opportunities already, Degerness said.

All of them agreed exposure to the arts helps students, especially those at a young age.

“As teachers we are forced to take the play out of the learning, and the arts is one way to sort of put the play back in,” Kapitan said. “I think it’s going to be very beneficial for many of them.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518