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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Leach Theatre: Reaching out to area students

  • For close to 10 years now, Missouri University of Science and Technology's Leach Theatre has offered a unique set of performances geared toward school children within a 50-mile radius of Rolla.
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  • For close to 10 years now, Missouri University of Science and Technology's Leach Theatre has offered a unique set of performances geared toward school children within a 50-mile radius of Rolla.
    "Around a decade ago, we started this program," said Emily Brickler, managing director of the theater. "In the last five or six years, we have gotten a huge response. We've gotten schools from Fort Leonard Wood to Cuba and Sullivan."
    Sue Hilderbrand teaches physical education and is the assistant athletic director at St. James Middle School. She has been bringing students to these performances for the past eight years.
    "Kids look forward to it every year," she said.
    Brickler explained that each year the theater organizes four age-appropriate programs for elementary, middle schools and high schools.
    Sometimes the performances for the children are part of Leach Theatre's annual performing arts season.  
    For instance, for the coming 2014- 2015 performing arts season, the theater will put on a performance of William Shakespeare's "The Tempest." It will be performed by Aquila Theater based in New York City.  
    Brickler said that during the day this theater troupe will perform a high school friendly show allowing the students to get an introduction to Shakespeare's work.
    "The artists usually love to do a kid component when they are in town," Brickler said.
    Most of the acts just come for the kids. In February 2015 ArcAttack, a performance art group that specializes in playing music through a combination of homemade, high-tech instruments, will be at Leach Theatre.
    Brickler said that last year the outreach program had almost 4,300 children participate.
    The theater is not only packed with wide-eyed children but grateful teachers who love the teaching element of these programs.
    The hour-long shows usually have a curriculum theme which allows teachers to talk about what the students learned when they're back in the classroom.
    "One year we had a pirate show that was tied into an anti-bullying program, which teachers could expand on in their schools," said Brickler.  
    The School Outreach Program will use surveys to see what teachers would like to see on stage.
    "I used to be teacher, and so I look and see what we can provide and what will help support the curriculum," Brickler noted.
    One of Brickler's favorite stories is the time Leach Theatre brought in the international performing arts group, Tap Kids.
    "We had fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders who came in and were horsing around. Once the show began, they were just spellbound," recalls Brickler. "And when the show was over, every kid who left that theater that day was tapping their feet."
    Hilderbrand appreciates the fact that Leach Theatre only charges a small fee for school districts to participate. In fact, the program covers the transportation expenses for each school.
    Page 2 of 2 - "We were finding that schools wanted to come but could not afford the busing expenses," Brickler noted. "Transportation is quite expensive these days. So we look at this (outreach program) as the university's way of reaching out to the community."

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