Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog




For 12 summers now, Merrimack Repertory Theatre has been home to the Young Artists at Play program (YAAP), which offers theatre camps for children entering grades 1-12. This summer YAAP will host 6 different camps in July and August, including a 2-week musical theatre camp for children in grades 6-8, and the 4-week long Young Company for students entering high school. Theatre professionals and guest artists teach the collaborative process of theatre that requires diverse and important skills. Children broaden their knowledge of theatre through a number of assignments, including reading and analyzing scripts, and working with fellow actors, directors, and designers, and every class ends with a final performance for friends and family. For more information on YAAP’s 2009 programming or to enroll, please call 978-654-7550 or view the online brochure.

I had the chance to interview YAAP Executive Director is Chandra Pieragostini, who shared her thoughts on the program.


How did you first become involved with YAAP? 

I started as a teacher developing a program for younger children at YAAP. The summer before I started working at YAAP it was just for high school students. Under the direction of David Zaffolli, YAAP wanted to offer programming for 1-5th graders and I was asked to help develop that and serve as lead teacher. 

What is the goal of YAAP? What do you want students to walk away with? 

The goal of YAAP is to give students a better understanding of theater and welcome them into its magic. We want to have a lot of fun doing that, and offer them an ensemble experience, meaning we work as a team. Our curriculum is designed to encourage developing life skills through theater:  problem solving, thinking on your feet, listening, cooperating, having a presence, and gaining self esteem. Our classes help students develop in many ways as an actor as well. We offer voice/music, movement, storytelling and acting to each program. But we are also very sensitive to the age level of each program and offer classes that will engage and educate each level. 


Do you have surprises or special guests in store for the students this year? 

I like the students to know what to expect when they arrive…so no surprises in that way. We do offer guest artists who come in once a week and offer a specialty we do not offer as part of the regular curriculum. So we might offer stage combat, clowning, improvisational theater,  strict vocal work, or the business of theater, depending on the program and age level. 

What is your favorite part about YAAP?

The kids the kids the kids. They bring the real magic and spark each summer, and I adore watching them grow throughout their time with us. A lot of them have come back year after year and to see them grow up in our programs and learn so much is a thrill! Also I am touched by how many want to come back and intern when they are too old to be in the program anymore. We offer internships for several people each year, and 90% come from past YAAP actors/students. 

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