Learn about our winter youth theatre production of "Under the Big Top."

Kids Learn Life Skills and Acting in Countryside YMCA Youth Theatre

Youth actor   
By Spencer Berta

Lebanon, OH On February 6 the Countryside YMCA youth theater program performed their 2021 production of “Under the Big Top”. This show brought together 16 kids, ranging from ages 8 to 15. Throughout rehearsals the youth actors experienced many benefits like making friends, learning life skills, learning the craft of theatre, and growing closer to their families.

When kids come to the YMCA, they can make friends with children they may not meet in their schools or neighborhoods. Making new friends is one of the reasons kids like to participate in the Y’s youth theater program. According to Michelle Berry, mother of performer Eric Berry, “Eric comes home every day more excited and more charged up than I’ve seen him. He is always excited to come back and be with his friends. “

The YMCA is also a place where youth of all ages participate in the production. The YMCA’s program is not selective or exclusive.  Production director Helen Vickers believes that youth theatre is one way to put kids on a level playing field and give them a chance to discover their talent. “Theater is the great equalizer; everyone gets a part in this production.” This philosophy is part of the theater program’s mission to promote confidence, problem-solving, self-expression, and especially participation in the arts.

Not only does the YMCA youth theater program build social skills, but it also helps develop life skills. According to performer Kyle Barker, “I have learned how to listen, and I understand you can miss out if you don’t listen.” Many of the actors also learned about the craft of theater. Fourteen year old Xander Spurlock stated, “It is very important to learn your lines and speak loudly.“ These skills can help kids grow in confidence to try other theater programs in their schools or communities if they choose.

Countryside YMCA has been open for more than 40 years, and the youth theatre program has been around for ten of those years. That means parents who participated in a Y program are now sending their child to the same program hoping to pass along the inspiration and enjoyment they experienced.  This is the case with 14-year-old Lydia Laswell. Her grandmother Joyce said that her daughter-in-law was a part of the YMCA’s theater program and encouraged her daughter to do the same thing. Lydia has now been in the theatre program for four years and would love to come back next year.

The YMCA youth theatre program has a positive lasting impact on kids and can inspire generations of families to follow their passion and develop a love for the arts.

Countryside YMCA Youth Theatre cast Cast of “Under the Big Top”

Kyle Barker, age 12 - Fisherman, Monkey
Eric Berry, age 13- Dog, Monkey, Servant
Peyton Bopp, age 11- Donkey, Servant, Monkey #4
Christopher Garcia, age 15- Troll, Monkey #7
West Henson, age 10- Hat man, Servant, and Hunter #3
Lydia Laswell, age 14- Miss Cat
Jake Longtin, age 8- Monkey, Servant, Baby Goat
Sean Longtin, age 11- Framer, Monkey #2, Servant, and Hunter #2
Earin McLinden, age 11- Lion, Monkey #6 and Servant
Marleigh Middleton, age 9- Mouse, Servant, Monkey #8, Hula-Hooping Girl
Leevanyleinshka Roman, age 7- Monkey #7, Ethel
Cora Simons- Magic Fish, Monkey #5
Xander Spurlock, age 14- Big Goat
Janie Swisher- Ringmaster, Monkey #3, and Servant
Izzy Woodward- Maid/Fisherman’s Wife, Monkey 8
Jack Woodward- Brother Goat, Hunter, Monkey 10

 Watch the performance of "Under the Big Top"

Click HERE to watch the production!

About Countryside YMCA

Since 1978, Countryside YMCA has embodied the Christian principles that welcome everyone in an environment where people of all ages can achieve a balance of spirit, mind and body. Located on a beautiful 126-acre property, Countryside YMCA is one of the world’s largest YMCAs offering eight pools, five gymnasiums, two indoor tracks, a rock climbing wall, a 13,000 square ft. cardio/ weight room, the Arts Center, Stolle Center for active seniors, the Motion Zone for active youth, a wide range of exercise, sports, and creative expression classes, disc golf, summer day camp for kids, and scenic trails. To learn more, please visit www.countrysideymca.org.