Courtesy Playmakers

Who Knew: After-school acting

It’s no secret that arts programs have faced the brunt of school budget cuts. As a result, many children will never know the feeling of standing on stage delivering tirelessly rehearsed lines to their proud parents in the audience. But one local group is dedicated to changing that.

Playmakers of Baton Rouge, a professional theater troupe for young audiences, has crafted new after-school programs meant to provide or supplement theater education in schools.

“The act of participating in theater benefits students in many ways,” says Executive Director Todd Henry. “They learn empathy, how to be better listeners and speakers, and how to work with others to create something bigger than themselves.”

Playmakers recently launched two types of no-fee programs for middle-school students. Playmakers After School is a nine-week program for up to 40 students. A Playmakers Teaching Artist visits the school once a week for hour-and-a-half sessions. During this period, students audition for, rehearse and perform a play or musical. The organization also offers a one-day Shakespeare workshop designed to demystify the Bard’s work and help students translate text from the page to the stage. Playmakers recently held its first Shakespeare workshop at McKinley Middle Magnet, and its leaders say they are excited to soon begin their first After School program at Sacred Heart.

In addition to its expanding educational program, Playmakers puts on three plays each year at LSU’s Reilly Theatre and sends three touring plays to elementary schools and libraries. Artistic Director Colt Neidhardt says he is particularly excited about the upcoming production of A Charlie Brown Christmas, which will run from December 11 to 20 at the Reilly Theatre.

To purchase play tickets, visit To bring a Playmakers After School program or a Shakespeare workshop to your school, email [email protected].