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For show biz kids (and caregivers) Theater of Youth and O’Connell & Co. have some online summer fun

When our son was in grade school and my wife and I would see the variety of summer camps in Western New York, we would look wistfully on the offerings and say to each other “I want to go to camp!” Now, it’s true that when it comes to theater classes for adults, both older and college-bound, all year long, many of them are provided by The Alleyway Theatre (which most people know from their annual production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, a Buffalo tradition). But if you’ve got some little ones yourself, for the next two weeks, Theatre of Youth (TOY) is offering two more golden opportunities to attend a “summer theater camp,” virtually of course, with one-hour-per-day, five-day long “Summer Workshops” for Grades 1-3 and then the following week for Grades 3-6, conducted by two of the most celebrated and award-winning folks in our area.

As the song says “There’s no people like show people” and among those show people in the Buffalo area, there’s no people like the universally regarded Aleks Malesj [say “malaise”] and Chris Kelly. How so?

The Artie Awards are the Buffalo version of Broadway’s Tony Awards, and since coming back to Western New York from New York City in 2013, Malesj has already scooped up three. She is an “actor’s actor” and when she’s on stage two adjectives for her might be “focused” and “intense,” yet her experience is primarily teaching theater arts to children. When you realize how seriously Theater of Youth takes their responsibilities to children, the fact that Malesj is their Education Coordinator makes perfect sense.

Over the past nine seasons (the 2020 nominations will be rolled out on two Wednesdays at noon –  August 5 and 12 – on radio station WBFO’s Facebook Live stream) Chris Kelly has had a dozen nominations including one win for, get this, acting, for directing plays, and for directing musicals. Talk about multi-talented. Those are three very different skills sets. Two adjectives for his directing style might by “focused” and “whimsical.” Kelly gets more out of script than most and sees opportunities for fun in the smallest gestures.

Here are the programs on which they’ll team up:

  • For students entering grades 1-3 it’s time to “THINK OUTSIDE THE TOY BOX”

August 10th- August 14th (Monday-Friday)

Time: 9AM-10AM

Cost: $50 (register online or call 716.884.4400 ext. 308)


Description: Participants will spend mornings “OUTSIDE of the Box” engaging in theatre based activities that explore the use of the imagination and bold choice-making skills. In this improvisation style class, your child will engage in thoughtful listening, creative thinking and working together. Children will be encouraged to explore the many ways to express themselves emotionally and artistically.

  • For students entering grades:3-6 the program is “YOU’RE SO DRAMATIC”

August 17th-August 21st (Monday-Friday)

Time: 9AM- 10AM

Cost: $50 (register online or call 716.884.4400 ext. 308)


Description: An introductory level improvisation class for young people! Where you learn how to “play pretend” with guidelines and how to build on the creative elements of improvisation. Expanding on the fundamentals of theatre through accessible, but challenging activities, students will learn to say YES to new ideas and experiences and begin trusting their choices.

O’Connell and Company.

O’Connell and Company is also offering several Zoom (online only) workshops, for three different age groups, at three different times, but all on the same day, Monday August 17. The topic is “EMPOWERED STORY TELLING” and will include such topics as: Why do humans need to tell stories? What are the hallmarks of an engaging story and storyteller? How can you know your audience and learn to identify and adapt your story structure? Every story has a unique tempo and rhythm, can you identify it? And finally participants will learn to share their experiences as an exercise in empathy.

SUNY Fredonia’s Daniel Lendzian, an experienced instructor of children’s theater programs (including Interlochen Arts Camp will be the instructor (read his bio here).

  • August 17th (one day, Monday only)

For students ages 5-8 the class is 9AM- 10AM (1 hour)

For students ages 9-16 the class is 11AM- 1PM (2 hours)

For students ages 5-8 the class is 6:30PM -8:30PM (2 hour)

Cost: Suggested donation is $20

Register online

Note: These are VIRTUAL CLASSES ONLINE and are one day, August 17, only.

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For over 20 years, as a producer and program host on WNED Classical (94.5 FM), he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?" These days Peter can be heard regularly on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5.

On “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?" As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take."

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he was an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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