Meet Britt Barrie, the proprietor of The Shooting Stars Junior Theatre Academy and Theatre Company. She talks about the joy of watching young people develop vital skills to take into adulthood.
How did Shooting Stars originate?
After moving to Armidale to attend university, I began doing private / small group speech and drama lessons in many schools in the area and really discovered such talent and desire to perform in the young people I was working with, that I decided to begin The Shooting Stars Junior Theatre Academy and Theatre Company. Having attended drama classes in Brisbane since the age of three, having such fond memories and learning things that have been useful through my life, I really felt it important to offer this experience to as many children as possible – especially those who may miss out otherwise.
How many students does Shooting Stars have?
We continue to grow each year. Having only begun in 2008, we are slowly becoming well known in the Armidale community. At present we have 50 students who participate in either our musical productions with our junior theatre company or attend our weekly mini musical theatre class or theatre workshops. Another way students are involved in our theatre academy is through individual or small group classes, which I run before or after school or during school breaks.
What are the students learning?
Oh boy, where do I start! Drama and theatre teaches so much, and so much of it you really don’t realise you are learning or gaining … things like teamwork, self confidence and presentation, problem and conflict solving skills. It has also been shown to improve reading and comprehension skills (being asked to research what we call ‘the whats, the wheres, the whos, the whens and the hows’ of a piece of poetry, character, dialogue or song). Seeing a student have a ‘light bulb’ moment, seeing them develop their performance each night or hearing them sing a song wonderfully, which at first they may have struggled with, is fantastic.
When and where did you learn to teach?
I have done most of my study through the Australian Music Examination Board, which offer many varied Speech and Drama syllabuses; many people would be familiar with the AMEB through musical instrument grades. I am also currently completing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English Literature and Music, so my learning continues.
Do you have a teaching philosophy?
Our philosophy is everyone is welcome and is made to feel comfortable without judgment. We have a strict no bullying policy. Drama is all about feeling comfortable to explore differences and learning from these differences. Our classes are kept to a maximum of 8 students per class, in order to ensure that each individual student receives adequate attention and tuition.
Do you have any shows coming up?
We are now in the process of auditioning for our next production, which is a lovely show called Seussical the Musical. This show includes many much-loved characters, such as as Dr. Seuss, Horton the Elephant, the Cat in the Hat, the Grinch and the Whos from Whosville. We are offering this to children between the ages of 10 and 15. Any students who may not be interested in performing on stage are welcome to join our backstage crew; we call them our ‘handy dandies’. They design and construct props, sets, costumes, work on our light and sound; we could not do a show without them.
What else does Shooting Stars offer?
We offer a number of classes for a variety of ages and skill levels. Term 4 sees us continue our weekly Mini Musical Theatre class, which is for beginners between the ages of 5 and 10. In this class we will work on song concepts and improvisations from the theme ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Then there are our weekly Theatre Workshops. These are for students between the ages of 11 and 15. In these workshops, in Term 4, we will be working on song concepts and improvisation from the theme ‘Jane Eyre and ‘Legally Blonde – the musical’. Both of the above classes are not productions but workshops where song, dance, music and dialogue as well as improvisation and theatre games are used to develop theatre skills.
As mentioned above, Shooting stars also offer individual or small group speech and drama lessons, which are arranged, with permission, at a before and after school or lunch break time at the school the student attends. In these lessons, students may decide to focus on the fun and enjoyment of drama, work towards an AMEB or London Trinity exam. With these exams we work with a variety of poetry and prose. London Trinity offers many different syllabuses. Many of our current students have decided to work towards certain events in the speech and drama section of the Armidale Eisteddfod.
We have an open door policy for all classes and lessons; it really is as easy as turning up and beginning. If you are wanting further information or to enroll, please contact 0466 390 533 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
All of these wonderful opportunities that Shooting Stars offers could not happen without our fabulous parent support; they are always there to fill the gaps backstage or to do some last minute sewing on costumes, encouraging their child to go over their lines or exam material that one more time. All of this is invaluable.
Our thanks also go to Centro shopping complex in Armidale, for allowing us to use their space for fundraising opportunities and performances. We hope to continue to work with them and other interested businesses. We like to say “GIVE IT A TRY; YOU MIGHT JUST LOVE IT.”
Thank you Britt.