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Kids and Theatre Training: Discovering the Wonderful You

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How is a conservatory-based theatre training a lifeline for kids, especially during and after the pandemic?

Kathryn’s podcast with Amelia Hays-Rivest and her father, Stephen E. Hays, shines light on a model for helping children cope and heal during and after the pandemic.

Like all good pilot programs, before it can expand globally, it is focused locally, in this case in the urban center of Springfield, Massachusetts. You will clearly see in this conversation that Amelia, Steve and their colleagues have created something vitally important to our collective recovery from this uncertain and traumatic time.

Their educational program is special, unique and scalable with the right financial and developmental support. As you enjoy this conversation, let your imagination run wild with the possibilities of how this educational model could be a lifeline, not just for kids, but for all of us.

In the next five years, we have to grow because the need is just so overwhelming.
                                                                                    Amelia Hays-Rivest

Amelia Hays-Rivest is the Director of Conservatory of The Drama Studio and has been an integral part of the organization since 1991, joining soon after graduating from Smith College with a BA in education, with independent studies in teaching dance and theatre to special needs populations.

Kids need what theatre has to offer…all of the emotion and communication and the ability to express and listen and hear.
                                                                                    Amelia Hays-Rivest

She has developed the unique curriculum for The Drama Studio, building a conservatory program that challenges and supports the development of students ages 6 – 18.  She teaches the advanced ensemble and choreography classes, as well as the introductory and intermediate classes for the younger ages.  Her intermediate and advanced classes work collaboratively to create original work for the Studio.

The lack of scripts for this age is interesting. We’ve found a few writers that write particularly well. What Amelia has started Is that the kids write the plays.
                                                                        Stephen E. Hays

Amelia also developed TheaterReaders as an outreach program within the Springfield Public Schools and is the primary teacher in that collaboration.  Additionally, she has taught acting and movement for the Loon and Heron Theatre in Boston, Providence Hospital, and the University of Hartford’s Summer Place.

She is the choreographer for the annual Boar’s Head Festival at Trinity Church in Springfield. Email

Stephen E. Hays is Founding Director of The Drama Studio and was Producing Director of Stage West from its inception in 1967 until 1984. He has directed Doors, Ozma of Oz, Wiley and the Hairy Man, Mother Hicks, The Secret Garden, Ordinary People, Ramona Quimby, The Birds, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Anne of Green Gables, The Italian Straw Hat, The Tempest, Very Good Eddie, and The Boy Friend for the Drama Studio.

One thing we’ve learned from the beginning is that this country has no tradition of teaching acting. There is no network. Isn’t it fascinating that music was given classes in school, and nothing for theatre other than “let’s put on a show”?
                                                                        Stephen E. Hays

Steve is also a playwright and musician, with four of his plays, The Snow Queen, The Little Match Girl, Me and Ruth, and Sara Crewe having premiered at The Drama Studio. Steve’s musical compositions are part of the Living Whole Online program. Email

Here are some of the themes that Amelia, Steve and Kathryn explore:

  • Why is theatre training emphasized so strongly in The Drama Studio?
  • How do special needs kids value The Drama Studio experience?
  • How does theatre training help with academic success?
  • How does Harvard research that says that there is no academic remedy for trauma-based learning blocks relate to theatre training?
  • How does theatre training unlock literacy in children, especially those with trauma histories?
  • How did The Drama Studio do productions during the pandemic? What is planned going forward?
  • What is the plan for creating “Springfield’s Literary District”?
  • Why is theatre accessible to all cultures?
  • What is a deficit of soul in college teacher training that The Drama Studio has been asked to help address?

How do we get the kids through this year? You watch them…their stress, their anxiety and depression are going through the roof. Parents say, “for that 90 minutes a week, I know my children are happy. That’s the only day I hear laughter coming from their room.”
                                                                                                                Amelia Hays-Rivest

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