Theater Classes for Kids, a Primer

By Jessica Neu

Children’s theater is an excellent opportunity for kids of any age to get involved in a community while learning valuable personal life lessons.

Participating in theater helps children make friends, build self-confidence, and develop essential physiological and cognitive skills. Also, there is just fun to be had in the theater regardless of in what capacity someone participates. This On Stage Pittsburgh article aims to bring together many of the wonderful class offerings throughout the Pittsburgh region for students interested in theater. Some classes offer open enrollment, and many require no previous experience. It’s never too early or too late for a young performer to get involved in theater. 

Gemini Theater Company: Located on Chartiers Ave. in McKees Rocks, Gemini Theater Company offers classes for children ages 4-17. For children ages 4-6, Play Date on Stage is an “introductory-dramatics class, designed for the youngest actors, explores the most basic elements of acting and creative expression.” As children age, classes such as “Page to Stage” and “Lights! Curtain! Musical!” offers a more advanced approach to character development, proper vocal techniques, and basic choreography. Also offered are Acting and Shakespeare workshops for performers ages 11-17, which focus on acting techniques and cold readings. 

Gemini also offers a week-long Winter camp between Christmas and New Year’s. Also, it provides a variety of Summer Camps that closely resemble their school-year classes. Tuition support is available. https://geminitheater.org/acting-classes/

Batavia Studios: Located in Mars, PA, Batavia Studios offers a wide variety of musical theater opportunities, art classes, and music lessons. Batavia currently has open registration for upcoming productions of Annie Jr. (ages 5-10), Matilda Jr. (ages 8-14), and Once Upon A Mattress (ages 10-17). No experience is necessary. Each production rehearses throughout the week and culminates in several performances in early 2023. https://bataviastudios.com/musical-theater/

Paragon Studios: Located in Pittsburgh’s North Hills, it offers training in the arts to ages 6-adult. Paragon also produces several full-length plays and musicals throughout the year. Classes are leveled based on age ranging from Acting/Musical Theater 1 (ages 6-8) to Acting/Musical Theater 4 (grades 9-12). They also offer private voice lessons and a Performance Basics course. Classes run the length of the school year and culminate in a full-scale performance. Levels 1&2 will perform Alice in Wonderland, and levels 3&4 will perform Matilda. https://paragonstudios.org/

Little Lake Theater Company: Located in Canonsburg, PA, Little Lake Theater hosts an extensive performance season with multiple musicals each year. While the 2022 auditions have ended, information for the 2023 auditions will be posted soon. Open to performers of all ages, Little Lake offers adult and child actors opportunities through their plays for children. Little Lake offers classes for young performers, beginning with the Starmaker Class (ages 6-9), the Actor’s Club (ages 9-14), Monologue Workshop (ages 14-18), and Musical Theater Studio (ages 14-18). Look for winter registration soon. https://www.littlelake.org/

Pittsburgh CLO: Located in downtown Pittsburgh, the CLO Academy offers a comprehensive list of classes focusing on dance techniques and musical theater. With options for kids 3-18, the CLO offers ala carte classes allowing performers to take just a single dance or musical theater class or a package that combines various dance classes (ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, etc.). Classes are established by age and run throughout the week and on Saturdays. Classes run on a semester schedule, with the first semester being September 6, 2022-December 18, 202, and the second semester beginning January 17, 2023-April 30, 2023. Look for summer camp registration in early spring as they offer various camps for all age groups that culminate in the performance of a musical. 

CLO also offers the Student School, perfect for 10 to 18-year-olds wishing to explore a deeper interest in musical theater and the performing arts field. These classes conveniently meet once a week. They can be purchased as a package or individually, just as with the academy classes. This level offers more intense classes, including “Fast Track” dance classes and Musical Theater intensives. 

Finally, the Pre-Professional School at the Pittsburgh CLO Academy is designed for students 10-18 planning to pursue a higher level of education and future career in theater arts. Here, students will be able to hone their craft alongside working professionals while growing into their artistry. This is the highest level of classes the CLO offers, with performers placed into classes based on ability. https://www.pittsburghclo.org//education/clo-academy/register

Riverfront Theater Company: Performing at the Allegheny River Trail Park, the Riverfront Theater Company holds auditions throughout the year for their community theater productions. Each year, they feature several Young Artists’ shows that are full-scale musical productions performed by school-aged kids. The company draws performers from many local elementary, middle, and high schools and offers a low-pressure audition environment. While summer camps have been suspended due to Covid-19, they are looking to bring back their summer camp program in 2023, with details forthcoming on their website. Look for audition information for upcoming productions on their website at https://www.riverfronttheaterco.org/

Prime Stage Sprouts – This junior theater division of Prime Stage Theater Company offers teenagers the opportunity to hone their acting craft by performing in full-scale plays. Prime Stage Sprouts aims to make children’s theater accessible to young audience members and their families by bringing short plays of classic children’s stories to life at the New Hazlett Theater. Sprouts’ 2022-2023 season includes productions of Harriet Tubman in January 2023 and The Box-Car Children in June 2023. Audition information is forthcoming for both shows. Prime Stage Theater also offers Master Acting Classes for young performers ages 16 and up. Master Classes vary in theme and occur throughout the year. You can find more information at https://primestage.com.

Perform! Pittsburgh: Located in Mars, PA, Perform! Pittsburgh offers a variety of classes for toddlers to teens that focus on acting, singing, performing, or even becoming the next YouTube sensation. No experience is needed to try any of the classes. Performers can take any number of classes, with registration open year-round. Perform! puts on several productions throughout the year. The studio owners adapt and direct these shows so performers ages three and up can participate in a full-scale musical production on the studio’s stage. Summer camps are also offered in addition to a Show Team who performs at various events across the Pittsburgh area. https://www.performpittsburgh.com/index.html

Pittsburgh Musical Theater (PMT) – Located in Pittsburgh’s West End neighborhood, PMT offers professional-level instruction to performers ages 4-adult. The classes for younger performers meet on Saturdays with ala carte classes offered for the Preteen ages. Tween and Teen classes meet on Saturdays and throughout the week to provide a more intensive level of training. PMT offers Technical theater classes where students can learn the design basics in sound, lighting, sets, costumes, and properties. PMT hosts its own performance season each year, performing musicals at various Pittsburgh theaters. The classes mentioned above are not directly affiliated with their shows, but PMT students do often appear in the performances. Classes are semester-long, with summer camps also offered.

Comtra Theater – Located in Cranberry, PA, Comtra does not offer classes during the school year but often posts open auditions for young performers to be in their upcoming productions. They currently have audition opportunities for performers 16 and older for The Adams Family and ages 18 and under for the school edition of Les Misérables. Both musicals will take place at Comtra’s theater-in-the-round. Comtra also offers various summer camps for performers of all ages.  https://www.comtratheatre.org/auditions/



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