Bringing Theater to Kids

January 15, 2015 at 10:39 am


Patty Austin

The thrill of performing
Imagine being onstage during a production of your favorite musical. The choreography and costumes beneath the bright lights, the changing scenery, the applause after the final curtain. Now, imagine giving the same opportunity to a child.

For the past nine years, Amway Independent Business Owner Patty Austin has volunteered with Music Theatre for Young People (MTYP). The organization in Wichita, Kansas, helps kids develop their talents and learn about musical theater by participating in Broadway-style performances. MTYP produces four shows a year, and each typically includes kids ages 7-18 from more than 30 area schools.

“MTYP hires local, professional artistic staff – including a director, music director, choreographer, costumer, and set and lighting designers – to teach the kids about every aspect of musical performance,” says Patty. “In addition to developing their skills in acting, singing, and dancing, they also experience how sets and costumes are created and used on stage. They learn to work with union workers, stage lighting, curtains, sets, and more.”

Patty is currently the president of the board of directors, and she’s worn many hats over the years: working in the office, performing outreach to local businesses, applying for grants, painting sets – whatever needs doing.

“I’m just a person who likes to help others,” she says. “And I’m proud to be a volunteer with such a great organization.”

Lasting benefits
Patty got involved with MTYP when her daughter joined. She saw firsthand as her daughter grew from a shy, quiet student into an outgoing, confident young woman – and she attributes much of that change to MTYP. “Now my daughter is a junior in college,” says Patty, “and I’m still very involved, because I want to help other youth reap the benefits the organization provides.”

“We hear individual stories and see the impact, but it’s not just anecdotal,” she adds. “Research supports that youth involved in the performing arts do better in school and learn many personal development skills.”

One student, Ian, recently graduated from high school. He’s been involved with MTYP since he was in third grade, and his parents have seen many positive changes throughout his time with the company. “He shows a strength, perseverance, and drive that’s even more impressive since he has mild Asperger’s syndrome, and staying on task and picking up social cues can be a challenge,” they wrote in a thank-you letter. “When it comes to performing, he has no problem focusing. His confidence has flourished.” Ian has since received a full scholarship to a local community college to study theater, turning his hobby into a career.

“I know that this benefits the kids so much,” says Patty. “I can see they enjoy belonging to an organization and being part of something they love.”

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