Summertime Learning: The REP Theatre

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SEASIDE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Repertory Theatre in Seaside seeks to be the premiere arts organization of the Panhandle. Through this mission, it's created summer programs to teach local kids, and they're doing it with laughter.

"It's set up in sort of a game format, so it doesn't seem like learning, but they're learning a lot of really valuable skills. How to express their creativity, gaining self confidence," Brook Stetler, the Executive Director of the REP, said.

The name of the game is improv! The "yes, and..." technique is one of the founding concepts of improv. When creating a story, saying "yes, and..." helps build on the narrative. This is a major concept the kids work on during the improv boot camp.

"Listening, collaborating, doing your best to make your partner look good. So it's a really great way to work on foundations of teamwork, and working as part of a community," Stetler said.

The REP also offers a magic workshop during the summer. Jeanette Andrews is a magician and sensory illusionist from Chicago. She spends her summers in Seaside teaching kids of all ages everything she learned about magic starting at their age.

"Learning magic teaches a very non linear way of problem solving, in these very round about ways of thinking. Both visually, from a mathematical standpoint, from an engineering standpoint," Andrews said.

Andrews believes magic is one of the few things still passed down from person to person. Her class is targeted specifically for her students, a cause she believes is more worthwhile than learning from a book or a YouTube video.

"What are people's individual strengths and weaknesses? It really is a very dynamic back and forth of, 'Okay, here is what is going to be what works best for you.' And it's not just a static, learning something off of a screen," Andrews said.

Whether it's through improve or magic tricks, teachers at the REP can install valuable lessons beyond just some basic skills.

"The great thing is when you see kids come out of their shells. There's some really shy kids who are scared to be there the very first day and are hiding away," Stetler said.

Many of the kids go on to high school, bringing the skills they learned at the REP with them.

"Really helpful for different aspects of public speaking, and presentation and things like that and we see a lot of kids who go on to really try to build that aspect of what they do," said Andrews.

The executive director believes summer camps are worthwhile because it's a break from the way kids are learning during the school year.

"They also learn how to collaborate with other kids. They're stuck on the screens a lot during the school day, just staring at stuff. It's a great way to break out of that and interacting with each other," said Stetler.