HOLLAND — This spring or summer, budding young actors and actresses have the chance to learn the foundations of theater through a new set of classes and a camp offered by the city of Holland’s recreation program. 

Holland Recreation is offering six-week after-school classes for elementary-age kids this spring, designed to introduce students to the art of acting. The classes will include interactive games, exercises and activities to lay the foundation for young performers to learn theater basics. 

Jo Gray, left, will be the instructor of the new theater classes and camps for youth offered as part of the city of Holland's recreation programs.

“Dreamers!” – Introduction to Acting (Level I & II) will meet once a week for six weeks starting on April 12.

Level I is geared toward 2nd and 3rd grade students and will meet from 5:15-6:15 p.m. Mondays. This class will focus on classic children’s dream stories like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Level II is available to 4th and 5th grade students. This class will meet from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Mondays and will explore how to bring to life well-known bedtime characters like Mr. Sandman, Tooth Fairy, Counting Sheep, Monsters Under the Bed and In the Closet who come together to tell a hilarious story featuring the Night Crew.

Both classes will conclude with a final presentation for family and friends, in accordance with National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health guidelines for gatherings. 

The location of the classes is still being determined. 

The Holland Recreation program is offering theater classes and camps for youth this spring and summer.

The fee for the “Dreamers!” class is $50 for residents and $65. After April 5, fees increase to $60 for residents and $75 for non-residents. 

Holland Recreation is also offering five-day Introduction to Acting Summer Camp for children in 2nd through 5th grade June 21 – 25. The camps will conclude with a matinee performance of “The Pig Who Cried Wolf,” an original play written by the program’s instructor, Jo Gray, on Saturday, June 26. 

The 2nd and 3rd grade camp will meet 9 a.m. to noon daily and the 4th and 5th grade camp will meet 1 to 4 p.m. daily. Holland Recreation program and event coordinator Kemri Hilton said the camp would most likely be held outdoors in one of the city’s parks. 

Summer camp fees are $115 for residents and $130 for non-residents if registered before May 24. After May 24, the fee increases to $125 for residents and $140 for non-residents. After June 7, the summer camp fee is $135 for residents and $150 for non-residents. 

Jo Gray

Gray, who moved to Holland in 2019 with her husband Bill, said she approached the city of Holland to propose adding youth theater classes. 

“Making a major life transition on the eve of a pandemic has not been ideal timing to get to know and contribute to our new community,” Gray said. “But, even before COVID, I sensed a theater void in Holland, specifically in youth theater programming. Now more than ever, I believe kids are eager to engage and explore new activities. Learning the art of theater offers young people an opportunity to interact, discover and develop crucial life skills of confidence, creativity and cooperation through the performing arts.”

Gray has taught theater and acting for the TRIO/Upward Bound program at Hope College, CultureWorks and Holland Public Schools. Jo also helped launch an online theater academy for Exit Left Theatre Co., which successfully instructed over 30 advanced acting students via a digital platform during the pandemic. 

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Hilton said most city recreation classes and youth and adult sports leagues have been able to make adjustments to follow COVID-19 prevention protocols, and they expect to offer a nearly-full slate of activities for youth and adults this summer despite the pandemic. 

Other arts classes offered through the city’s recreation program this spring and summer include the Tulip Toons, Draw Club and Graphic Novel Gurus and guitar and percussion classes. 

Sign up for any of these programs at the Holland Recreation website, bit.ly/3tLLaPY. 

— Contact reporter Carolyn Muyskens at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @cjmuyskens

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