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Decatur theater program gives kids hands-on learning 🎭
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Decatur theater program gives kids hands-on learning 🎭

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DECATUR — Lillian Hammer, 7, has dedicated the past few weeks perfecting her upcoming role in a play at Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre, even putting in extra practice during recess at school. 

"You know how airline ladies are dressed sometimes?" she asked, describing the costume she chose to represent her character Maple, the mayor of Bestopolis. "I just think it kind of looks like a hotel lady and kind of looks like a mayor."

Little Dreamers is a program designed to teach second to sixth grade kids the basics of theater. The program is part of Pipe Dream's education program, a student-operated theater at Millikin Univeristy, and Macon County 4-H.

Lillian said she not only looks forward to brushing up on her acting, but also getting to know the 17 other children participating.

"Usually it's just being here with all these fun people, especially my teachers,” she said.

Beginning Oct. 23, the group met twice a week at Pipe Dreams, 1099 W. Wood St., to hear from Millikin students about various parts of theater production, like stage management, costume design and acting techniques. One day, a student that does costume design came in and showed the children some of her sketches.

And to apply what they've learned, each kid gets to designed their own character sheets and costumes. A student writer compiles the characters into a script to be performed in a play on Wednesday, Dec. 4, the final day of the program. 

"They're learning about their own imaginations, creativity and storytelling skills that they get to do through theater,” said Maya Dougherty, Pipe Dreams director of education and a senior at Millikin. "Even if they don't necessarily have as many lines as they want, they still are playing a character they've created themselves, which is pretty neat.”

The group made big strides Monday afternoon by rehearsing the entire play from beginning to end, which was only practiced in segments beforehand. The next step is to practice with props and later with no scripts in-hand, Dougherty said.

This is the first year Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre has had an education program. Little Dreamers program was first for students at Dennis School in September. This six-week session was offered to the public after positive community feedback and another session is planned in the spring for students at French Academy, Dougherty said.

“It's just really special to me because I remember how important theater was when I started doing it," she said. “There's a lot of self-discovery that goes into theater, putting yourself out there and being on stage in front of people takes a lot."

PHOTOS: Archive photos of the Millikin University campus

Contact Garrett Karsten at (217) 421-6949. Follow him on Twitter: @GarrettKarsten

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