Youth Theater Brings Enrichment To New Britain

By Olivia Jablonski,
Managing Editor

Theater can encourage the young minds of children and adolescents by giving them the ability to think creatively of bright ideas and to collaborate with one another on teamwork. It can also foster self-confidence and their self-esteem, and also develop social and academic skills through their involvement in a program in the performing arts.

Logo for the play "Penny & The Pirates", being put on by the New Britain Youth Theater. Photo Courtesy of the New Britain Youth Theater.

Logo for the play “Penny & The Pirates”, being put on by the New Britain Youth Theater. Photo Courtesy of the New Britain Youth Theater.

The New Britain Youth Theater is one place that has high quality and is actually a low-cost program to start off with a young child. They can grow up and learn the basic skills mentioned above as to how they can become a successful actor, producer, or whatever field of interest they choose to focus on in the performing arts.

Headquartered with the New Britain YMCA Center, the theater was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in Connecticut back in the spring of 2010. Its purpose was to provide after-school programming to the Consolidated School District of New Britain, to produce a season of performances by and for children and young adults, and to offer drama classes and summer programs.

“We still provide after school programs at a few schools,” said Darren Farrington, executive director and volunteer at the theater.

Farrington is also a consultant for the state of Connecticut with helping out small theaters, and to also give advice or guidance to the management side of theater.

“My background was in producing theater,” he said, “and at the time the idea for this was getting started, a friend of mine talked to me about the school district in New Britain, and wanted to get some theater programs started,” Farrington said.

Left to right, Gavin Kavanaugh as Nosock, Paige Kavanaugh as Bluesock, Sophia Tierney as Penny, Natalie Zadroga (kneeling) as Salty, Rebekah Meole as Redsock, Gabriela Malfetas Duran as Blacksock, and Samuel Carney as the Newsboy rehearse a scene from New Britain Youth Theater's Penny and the Pirates. Photo Courtesy of New Britain Youth Theater.

Left to right, Gavin Kavanaugh as Nosock, Paige Kavanaugh as Bluesock, Sophia Tierney as Penny, Natalie Zadroga (kneeling) as Salty, Rebekah Meole as Redsock, Gabriela Malfetas Duran as Blacksock, and Samuel Carney as the Newsboy rehearse a scene from New Britain Youth Theater’s Penny and the Pirates. Photo Courtesy of New Britain Youth Theater.

Agreeing to the plan, Farrington joined his friend and created the plan to hold after school programs to educate children about theater.

“We also thought if we’re creating a theater to do this, we should put on a play too,” he said. “It then started with school programs, one play and then many kids were coming and we began to offer more classes and audition opportunities.”

The theater is now a leading professionally run community and education theater programs including “Kids on Stage!” and “Little Kids on Stage!” productions, the New Britain Youth Theater Teen Company, Stage Performance classes, in-school and after-school arts enrichment and integration programming, community outreach programs, and more.

The theater is up to seven shows a year with three different age groups, Farrington mentioned.

Their upcoming show, “Penny & the Pirates,” which will take place on Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, April 10 at 2 p.m., include children from the ages six to nine years old, Farrington said.

“Penny & the Pirates” is an original play several Connecticut play writers wrote for the theater. “It is about a girl who’s in her backyard and pirates come along and she goes on an adventurous journey with the few pirates to find treasure,” Farrington said.

“I enjoy theater and I love to work with kids,” said Brooke Ferguson, co-director for Penny & the Pirates.

“It’s fun working with the kids because of how much dedication they put into their roles and how new of an experience it is for them to play a role in the plays that we offer,” she said.

Left to right, Gavin Kavanaugh as Nosock and Paige Kavanaugh as Bluesock rehearse a scene from New Britain Youth Theater's Penny and the Pirates. Photo Courtesy of the New Britain Youth Theater.

Left to right, Gavin Kavanaugh as Nosock and Paige Kavanaugh as Bluesock rehearse a scene from New Britain Youth Theater’s Penny and the Pirates. Photo Courtesy of the New Britain Youth Theater.

Ferguson has studied theater performance at Central Connecticut State University, and in the past she directed plays at high schools. She is currently teaching theater at the Youth Center.

In the past six years, the theater hasn’t repeated any shows.

“Based on picking show ideas and themes we look at the age groups,” says Farrington, “we try to come up with fun ideas for each group.”

For the younger age group, the theater focuses on a mix of fairytales. For instance, last year the younger children did an original play about “Repunzel” and last fall they did “Winnie the Pooh.”

“With our teenagers we try to challenge them with shows that a lot of high schools don’t normally do,” Farrington said. “We’ve done a ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Shakespeare’ last June in the outdoors on the grounds of the New Britain Museum of American Art.”

The theater also puts on shows at the Hole in the Wall Theater, located in downtown New Britain. “We’ve done some classics, musicals, and we’re currently talking about doing a team theater festival where they will write and direct,” said Farrington.

Aside from the school programs, everything the theater does is open to anyone from anywhere to come be a part of. “We’ve got people from three different towns around Connecticut participate in our shows,” Farrington said.

“We do our best to get information out about our auditions,” he said. The theater typically puts out their information to schools, and the schools would announce it.
The following schools the theater has worked with are Plainville, Bristol, and Harford schools.

“We try not to turn away anybody who wants to audition,” Farrington says, “as long as their schedule matches when we’re going to have rehearsal time.”

There are also participation fees for those who want to go to auditions.

Visit the New Britain Youth Theater’s website www.NBYT.org or call 860-515-8115 for more information about future auditions, or about the theater in general.

This weekend’s “Penny & the Pirates” show is open to the public; general admission is $8 and children is $6.