In 2019, elementary school children enrolled in a Community Ed program taught by The Zephyr Theatre staff. Their colorful performance was “Seussical Jr.”

Since 2017, students have had onstage roles in “James and the Giant Peach,” “Seussical Jr.,” and other productions, thanks to a partnership between Stillwater Area Schools Community Education and The Zephyr Theatre.

This school year, “Curtains Up! Disney’s The Jungle Book KIDS” will be offered to students in grades three through five. Youngsters in kindergarten through second grade will be able to sign up for “In the Spotlight: Disney on Stage: Heroes and Villains.”

Registration for the after-school theatre classes is still open at https://stillwater.ce.eleyo.com.

Throughout the school year, theatre professionals from The Zephyr will bring the programs to the district’s seven elementary schools — Andersen, Afton-Lakeland, Brookview, Lake Elmo, and Lily Lake, Rutherford and Stonebridge.

And that’s the key to these extra-curricular classes: They’re accessible, The Zephyr’s education programming director Reed Sigmund said. This format — onsite exposure to all things theatre — makes it easy for students to get involved at an early age.

“These programs give kids the opportunity to fall in love with theatre,” he said.

And what’s not to love. For instance, youngsters enrolled in “Heroes and Villains” will get to pick a favorite Disney character and figure out his or her personality. Then, the students will work together to create a story involving all their disparate characters. Are Cinderella and Mickey Mouse, chased by Captain Hook, smart enough to figure out how to rescue a befuddled Buzz Lightyear? Let’s find out.

Trying on different roles, using different voices, moving in different ways are all important skills for actors, Sigmund said. Learning how to respect each other, support each other, and collaborate are equally important both on stage and off, he said.

Sigmund comes to the programs with ample street cred. He’s a 21-year veteran of the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis and a vocal advocate for adding theatre arts to children’s lives.

“Playing make-believe is great fun,” said this wildly physical actor who has portrayed The Grinch four times at CTC. Then, he gets personal. “But theatre arts education helped me grow as a person, made me a better student, and helped me learn about empathy. Theatre continues to do so much for me.”

He wants to share that opportunity for kids to learn about theatre, themselves, and their role in the world.

In a nutshell, he said, more kids need more theatre. These accessible in-school programs are a step in that right direction.

Zephyr event schedule

PK Mayo, Sept. 9

Singer and guitarist PK Mayo, aka Paul Mayasich, is a member of the Minnesota Rock & Country Hall of Fame. His talent has been compared to that of Duane Allman, Lowell George, Roy Buchanan, Ry Cooder and Sonny Landreth.

PK Mayo will perform at 7 p.m. Sept. 9 on the outdoor stage at The Zephyr Theatre, 601 Main St. N., Stillwater. Tickets are $20 ator at the gate. Cash bar open.

The Barley Jacks, Sept. 17

The Barley Jacks sing original vocals and play jaw-dropping instrumentals. These four Minnesota-based musicians — masters of fiddle, guitar, bass, and drum — meld their divergent backgrounds of blues and bluegrass, classical and Celtic, R&B and bebop to inspire each other and create something new.

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