Acts of Youth, a nonprofit founded late last year, produced its first production on Aug. 11 at the Dawn Theater. The skit list included parts from “Clue,” “Abbott and Costello,” and “Children’s Snow White.”
They are taking the stage in Hillsdale in hopes of helping youth express themselves and their imaginations. The group aims to encourage and celebrate creativity while teaching life skills like time management and teamwork, according to the website.
“Together we hope to cultivate a safe and fun atmosphere of respect, encouragement, and the simple appreciation of play,” Danielle Rhine, founder of Acts of Youth, said.
Students ages 4 to 17 participated in the first production. The choir, which is separate from the theater company, was composed of more than 40 students, according to Rhine.
While Acts of Youth is a Christian-based theater company, it does not require belief in the faith to participate. The company aims to provide a Christian environment for all regardless of personal beliefs, according to senior Niki Klikovac who works for the group.
“I am a Bible-believing Christian; this group will be biblically aligned to the best of my human ability and conviction,” Rhine wrote on the website about founding Acts of Youth. “Questions are always welcome.”
Acts of Youth seeks to allow students of all ages and experience to participate in its productions. Through this process, the group hopes to instill confidence in the actors.
“My anxiety made it nearly impossible to talk with my peers, and sometimes I would lose my voice entirely,” Rhine said. “Theater largely contributed to my overcoming this area of my life. It wasn’t one single moment where my chains of insecurity fell to the floor but instead small victories that were catalysts for courage and, finally, a voice.”
Rhine said she sees Acts of Youth as an opportunity to give back and help children who might relate with her early theater experiences.
“We believe that one thing that sets us apart from other theater groups is that we are focusing on the life skills attained through theater instead of only accepting students who already love acting and highlighting their established skills,” Rhine said.
Klikovac said she helps direct skits and design costumes for the group.
“I love working on a script and taking in a story,” Klikovac said.
Theater practice for the Aug. 11 production happened twice monthly for close to two hours at Baw Beese Lake. Klikovac said the schedule was feasible due to practice and memorizing at home. Rhine said it was a big learning experience.
Professor of Theatre James Brandon recommended Klikovac for director and said he believes this opportunity is great for her. He said he loves when the Hillsdale College Theatre department can be involved with the local community.
The college contributed to the performance by loaning costumes to Acts of Youth.
“Anytime a place like Hillsdale College can contribute in that way to the community is a real big victory, a real win,” Brandon said.
Both Rhine and Klikovac said group members developed more confidence and talent.
“Some of these kids started off barely being able to introduce themselves by name and they are now standing in front of their peers representing a character and performing,” Rhine said.
Acts of Youth hopes to produce another show next summer.
“We hope to develop strengths, empower areas of weakness, and introduce new skill sets that we believe are practical to real life,” Rhine said.