Stephens partners with Plays for Living
Stephens College is now offering educational theatre to area schools through a new affiliation with New York-based Plays for Living Theatre. Stephens is the first college or university to partner with the 70-year-old not-for-profit organization, which uses theatre to tackle difficult social issues.
“This program is such a perfect fit for Stephens on so many levels,” Stephens President Dianne Lynch said. “It allows our students to share their talent and expertise with the community while also developing professional experiences that will benefit them beyond graduation. And it represents a new kind of community involvement that will benefit so many area children.”
Sprouts Plays for Living adds an educational component to theatre entertainment. After Stephens theatre students perform the plays, students from Stephens’ Master of Education in Counseling program facilitate small group discussions with the children, allowing them to talk about what they’ve seen.
The program kicked off Wednesday, March 13, at Stephens College Children’s School with a production called “What’s the Difference,” a short play about diversity. The group is now making the play available to other area schools, and this month it will be presented to fourth-grade classes at Midway Heights, Blue Ridge, Paxton Keeley and Fairview elementary schools in Columbia.
In the coming years, Sprouts Plays for Living is expected to offer educational theatre to area schools year round. In the future, students in Stephens’ new Event and Convention Management program, which begins this fall, are expected to help coordinate the events.
Lynch helped facilitate the partnership when she connected Stephens senior Dylan Shelofsky with Stephens alumna Sara Crosby, coordinator of regional affiliates for the national Plays for Living Company and director and founder of Dakota Academy of Performing Arts Plays for Living Theatre Company in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Shelofsky is a theatre major with a passion for education—both of her parents are educators. She wanted to start a children’s theatre company at Stephens and originally planned to write her own scripts.
When she learned about Plays for Living, Shelofsky discovered that the ready-made productions were exactly the types of messages she wanted to get out to children.
“It’s a teaching vessel,” she said. “Children will recognize themes. They’ll recognize ways to solve problems.”
Crosby agreed, saying the partnership will not only benefit the college, but also the children whose lives will be touched by the productions and discussions. Through her affiliate, the plays have helped depressed and bullied children find the courage to seek help.
“Plays for Living gives voice,” Crosby said. “It gives voice to those who need it most and it gives voice to those students at Stephens who are willing to reach out and share their talents in order to be heard, to make a difference.”