Key City Public Theatre’s Brendan Chambers and Maggie Jo Bulkley engage in a little “zip zap zop,” a theater game, in preparation for their youth theater classes in Port Townsend. The two are not wearing masks in this photo because they live in the same household. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Key City Public Theatre’s Brendan Chambers and Maggie Jo Bulkley engage in a little “zip zap zop,” a theater game, in preparation for their youth theater classes in Port Townsend. The two are not wearing masks in this photo because they live in the same household. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Key City Public Theatre restarts youth program

Winter courses for children, teens

PORT TOWNSEND — Maggie Jo Bulkley is clear on her mission in life.

It’s to share theater — music, drama, dance, comedy — with the people around her, while helping everybody have a blast in the process.

So Bulkley, alongside Key City Public Theatre colleague Brendan Chambers, is lighting up right about now. The pair is poised to teach a variety of classes for youngsters in grades 1 through 12, all in a donated downtown space starting next week.

Information about signing up for Theater Adventure Club, Drama I and Intro to Musical Theater — part of KCPT’s offerings throughout the year — is available at keycitypublictheatre.org. Since the classes starting Feb. 9 and 10 are small, some are already sold out, but a spring session is on the horizon if things go the way Chambers and Bulkley hope.

KCPT’s youth classes will be held indoors with full COVID safety protocols, noted Denise Winter, artistic director of the nonprofit theater.

Restaurateur Kris Nelson donated the space at 914 Water St., while David Shroeder and Margaret McGee made a large contribution to restart the education program, Winter added.

This is a critical time to provide young people with something to explore, she said. Students will play theater games, develop acting skills, investigate the art of story — in other words, they have time to build confidence and collaborative ability, which come in handy in life outside the playhouse.

“Underlining all the positive outcomes,” Winter added, “is a desire to create a safe, fun, person-to-person experience that simply isn’t happening right now.”

Bulkley, 27, who holds a bachelor of fine arts from Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, has been a cast and crew member in shows ranging from “Men on Boats” and “Spirit of the Yule” at KCPT to “Legally Blonde” at Sequim High School. As a teacher, mentor and peer, she believes in giving her students strong roles in the creative process.

“It’s important for young people to find their voice and use it,” she said, adding, “when kids take these kinds of classes outside school, it’s not necessarily to ‘be an actor.’”

Regardless of their career choices, Bulkley wants her youngsters to gain a strong sense of self and of community.

“You can make an ensemble out of anyone who’s willing to create together,” she added.

Chambers, 34, who earned a master’s in educational theater from New York University, has worked at KCPT for nearly four years, and in 2019 was promoted to artistic associate.

These winter classes are the debut of a year-round program, he said, with class offerings that respond to what students are interested in.

“We’ve been waiting; picking the right time is hard,” Chambers said.

With KCPT’s playhouse being remodeled, a spacious indoor studio had to be found. Come spring, outdoor classes may be possible. In any case, “we’ll go with the rules,” including masking, social distancing and relatively short sessions of 45 minutes each.

“Class sizes are small, which is great for the teacher-student ratio,” he said.

“During this pandemic, there haven’t been a lot of opportunities. We’re hoping this will also inspire students to come out of their shell.

“We’re still wearing masks; I hope even with the masks, we’ll be able to shine through.”

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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