When I explain NDW to someone who doesn’t know anything about the program, I usually tell them that it is a musical community theater group for kids. Then I’ll go on to explain the workshop piece of it. Theater is a huge community. Anywhere you go in life you will find a community theater and you will find people that you instantly feel comfortable around because they are theater people. NDW at its core is part of this special community.
Inside NDW there are different groups of people that come together to put on a show. There are people from Kennedy, Wilson, Ursuline, McAuliffe, and many other schools. There are families that are new to town and families from town that go back centuries. There are actors who are triple threats, actors who excel at comedy, actors who excel at dancing or singing. Beyond that we have incredible volunteers who form their own community while building the sets or making costumes. NDW is special.
Everyone knows that we are special, and you could say this about many different groups. One thing that adds to our community is our mentor group program. For those unfamiliar, we mix the kids up and then split them into several groups. Each group has kids from each grade and is led by the older kids. When our actors and alumni say that NDW is like a family they mean it because we force them to be together and get to know one another. If an actor is in our program for 8 shows (the max possible – unless of course you repeat a grade) she will meet so many different people and actually get to know them all because of our mentor groups. If an actor only does one show with us, his mentor group during this show gives him a new set of friends that he can hang out with and learn the ropes from.
This week we assigned mentor groups and had each group work together to come up with a name. Each group had a chance to talk, to learn each other’s names, and to “become” a human knot. The foundation has been laid for our actors to chat with different people and get to know some of our newer members.
These mentor groups are helpful in a few ways. For the staff it makes it easier to take attendance, but we don’t have mentor groups for us! As I mentioned, kids get to know different kids. But that’s not all. These mentor groups serve as a way to get information about the program. Any questions an actor has about the way things work can be directed to other members of his or her group. Now, of course an actor can still come to a staff member or go to one of our wonderful FNDW Board parents, but isn’t it nice to go to a peer? Another reason for the mentor groups is to help problem solve. If one of our actors has a problem sometimes it’s hard to go to an adult (or maybe the problem is with an adult). With mentor groups, actors are encouraged to talk to them if they don’t feel comfortable coming to us (the staff). I don’t know how often this happens, but we have very few problems at NDW – perhaps that’s because NDW is such an awesome group and mostly problem-free, but perhaps it is because the kids go each other and problems are solved without our knowledge.
NDW has just started and there is still plenty of time for our actors to chat*, get to know one another, and hang out. At least now, with mentor groups, we know that even the shyest person will get to enjoy this part of NDW – truly making us a community.
See you Saturday,
*When I say “chat” I obviously do not mean during rehearsal. We love that our actors love each other, but we do expect them to use non-rehearsal time to be chit-chatty.