- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 8, 2016

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - As a theater major at Indiana State University, senior Olivia Underwood has learned plenty of games during her acting training.

Now she’s sharing some of them with youngsters through a free Community School of the Arts program - called Fusion Spotlight Theater - at Terre Haute’s Ryves Youth Center. The theater program was made possible through an Arts Illiana grant.

The first time Ryves Youth Center has ever offered such a program, it’s run every Tuesday and Thursday evening - usually from 5:30 to 7 p.m. - since debuting Jan. 26. It will continue through March 10.

“It’s an after-school program,” explained Underwood, the primary instructor who gets assistance from fellow ISU student Jacob Glidden. “We generally play some acting and skill-building games.”

Participating children are at least 11, with the oldest being 15 and 18, and most live near Ryves Youth Center. Underwood said the number attending each session of the program has ranged from two to 12.

“We hope they’re getting a sense of self-confidence, a little bit of professionalism, a sense of team-building,” Underwood said. “There’s a lot of games that require awareness of the rest of the group.

“I hope that they get a little bit of excitement about theater, at least later in life, because a lot of them are young. I’m hoping to introduce them to a lot of theatrical ideas. I just want them to be more confident and work on that. We’ve done a lot of improv work … games that encourage creative thinking, problem solving and some that encourage them to think outside the box.”

So how much have the youngsters improved since their first session in January?

“I had held off on some of the harder games until pretty recently,” Underwood admitted. “I didn’t know if they could handle them, but they did. They blew me out of the water. They’ve been playing some of the harder games, some games that are even challenging for professionals that I’ve worked with. It took them a while, but they got to the point where I was really impressed.”

One game that 12-year-old Kailey Bennett likes is Bippity-Bippity-Bop, where several students form a circle around one in the middle.

“We learn to pay attention,” noted Bennett, a fifth-grader at Terre Town Elementary School. “It’s a focus game.”

Most of the time, Bennett really enjoys attending Underwood’s twice-a-week program.

“It’s fun,” she said. “We get to play games.”

Meanwhile, 15-year-old Ivie Gilbert prefers a different game.

“I like Questions Only, where you have a conversation with someone while only asking questions,” mentioned Gilbert, an eighth-grader at Sarah Scott Middle School. “It’s really fun.”

Gilbert added that she’s learning to focus and talk better from the various games taught by Underwood and Glidden.

From Underwood’s perspective, she’s learning a few things from the children too.

“I love working with them,” she told the Tribune-Star before Thursday’s session, which had seven children show up and experience the program from the Ryves Youth Center stage.

“It is an employment opportunity for me, but I love working with the kids. I love seeing them improve over time. Some of them have gotten really passionate about it. … I really enjoy seeing the passion.”

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Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, http://bit.ly/21hI6FK

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Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com

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