Theatre education runs deep for Amy Menkin. And it’s not just that she met her husband at a youth theatre program in middle school.
“Seeing the things they can come up with is really fascinating—and really moving,” she remarks. Amy has worked with youth on developing original theatre across the country, from the Theatre Works in California, to the Lawrence Public Schools, to Tufts Children’s Theatre in her hometown Medford, where she was a participant as a kid (and really did meet her husband Justin).
With a master’s degree in Theatre Education from Emerson, Amy knows well the singular lens theatre brings to the world for young people. Often, that goes beyond conventional scripted plays. Whether kids are creating the phases of the moon with their bodies, or making brand new plays out of poems, they find whole new ways of learning about the world, themselves, and each other through stage work.
“I had a group of 3rd graders, almost all of them ELL students,” Amy remembers, “and many of them didn’t speak much English at all. Over the course of two weeks, they were able to learn about theatre, create ‘I Am’ poems—poems using ‘I Am’ statements to describe themselves—and then perform their poems in groups for their families… it was so amazing seeing these kids with little to no theatre experience and little to no English skills have the courage to get up in front of an audience and perform for the very first time.”
But Amy’s favorite ages to work with are middle and high schoolers: “Their brains are so interesting. They’re very aware of what’s going on in the world—but a lot of times people hold them back. They’re really open to some concepts that younger kids don’t get yet, and older adults have often closed off to: Who do you want to be in the world? How do you make your mark? Theatre is a really good outlet for that.” The camaraderie and openness to being vulnerable that teens find in theatre is remarkable. And the people you make theatre with at that age, Amy reflects, can become your everything—your friends, your support, your rock, and your family.
Happily, those are the exact age groups Amy will be teaching with the re-launch of Young Company here on July 11. Students will create original theatre pieces over a two-week session, perform them on the MRT stage, and then come back for workshops and master classes with MRT artists over the rest of the season. It’s a great way for Amy to keep doing what she loves, and an even greater way for our local youth to discover all the wonderful things theatre can do.
Likes to binge watch: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Likes to binge read: Agatha Christie and Nancy Drew mysteries
Deep Dark Secret: Can recite the entire Disney Aladdin movie by heart