Shepherd Boy and Little Red pose during a dance number in Little Red. Their legs are apart and their arms are stretched wide.

Theatre for Young Audiences and Student Matinees Bring Learning to Life

The transformative power of live theatre is an undeniable force that can shape lives, broaden horizons, and ignite passions. For nearly four decades, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) Education department has introduced such experiences to schools and communities across Colorado through its Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) and Student Matinee programs. With a return run of Little Red this fall, the DCPA continues its mission of engaging and inspiring young minds through the magic of theatre.

Shepherd Boy and Little Red pose during a dance number in Little Red. Their legs are apart and their arms are stretched wide.

Sean Scrutchins and Brittany Mendoza in Little Red. Photo by Amanda Tipton Photography

“TYA is geared towards a younger audience, so the show is much shorter than your average theatre production, only about an hour long,” Jessica Bergin, Associate Director of Group Sales, explained. “Kids are going to have a good time. They don’t have to sit super quiet in the theatre. It’s okay for them to shout out, clap, and cheer on their favorite characters.”

Last year, the DCPA Education program served 128 schools with their run of Little Red. The program strives to make theater accessible to all early learning centers by offering scholarships for Title One schools, interactive post-show workshops, and lunch space. Little Red is more than just a play; it’s an opportunity for schools to introduce students to the world of imagination and learning.

Beyond TYA, the Student Matinee program continues bringing the magic of theatre to students through 12th grade. Since 1984, student matinees have offered students and educators a comprehensive experience designed to provide creative, theatre-based learning that connects shows to state curriculums.

Before arriving at the Performing Arts Complex, educators receive professionally prepared study guides with valuable insights into the play, playwright, themes, and characters without giving away too much of the plot. These study guides become educators’ resources for preparing for their trips and help launch conversations with their students.

But the learning doesn’t stop there. The DCPA teaching artists facilitate pre or post-show workshops, which delve deeper into the production’s themes. Using theatrical activities, workshops provide entry points for students to connect with the play on a more profound level.

The Three Little Pigs stand with their cart full of bricks. They are looking at Little Red, who stands on top of a log wearing a red poncho.

Matt Zambrano, Alex Campbell, Sean Scrutchins, and Brittany Mendoza in Little Red. Photo by Amanda Tipton Photography

Following performances, students can participate in a post-show talkback. These sessions, facilitated by the DCPA’s education team, allow students to interact with actors and production staff. They can ask questions, gain insights into the creative process, and explore nuances of the performance. It’s a chance for students to see the theater as a living, breathing art form, and for many, it’s their first glimpse behind the scenes.

Aside from the entertainment value, these experiences open a world of possibilities for students. They encourage critical thinking, empathy, and creativity. One educator remarked, “More opportunities equal more people who want to get their foot in the door when it comes to theatre and being able to intake literacy with a more critical lens.” These matinees empower young minds to explore the world of literature and drama from a fresh perspective.

Through TYA and Student Matinees, the DCPA provides students of all ages with an opportunity that might otherwise be out of reach. As one student put it, “There are some kids in theatre, like me, who aren’t able to see shows like this because of limitations. We rarely get to experience something like this.”

The Wolf poses in front of Grandma's house as he sings. He's bent on one knee with his arms outstretched.

Matt Zambrano as The Wolf in Little Red. Photo by Amanda Tipton Photography.

The DCPA is not just staging productions; it’s staging experiences that shape the lives of young minds. Little Red is just one chapter, perhaps the beginning, of a student’s love for the arts that can last a lifetime. As these programs continue to touch the lives of thousands of students, the DCPA remains committed to opening doors to a world of wonder and imagination for students across the region.

Learn more about Student Matinees here.

Oct 5-Dec 23 | Weeks Conservatory Theatre