“Spotlight Theatre” gives middle schoolers the opportunity to learn acting skills over Zoom



Students involved in Spotlight Theatre productions have fun and build community during a time when many normal extracurriculars have been cancelled.

Billions of people across the globe have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused schools to go online, leaving children with empty schedules in the afternoon. While many schools, restaurants and stores have been forced to close, Spotlight Theatre has arisen as a way to provide entertainment and activity to the Brookline community.

Spotlight Theatre is a Zoom-based acting program for middle schoolers that is run by high school students who are actors themselves. Students write their own scripts, run the rehearsals and carry out the shows. Since the program’s start in June, they have performed “Wonderland,” which was an adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland,” and they are currently rehearsing “Second Star to the Right,” which is an adaptation of “Peter Pan.”

Junior T. Schmults, one of the three founders of Spotlight Theatre, said that she wants to use the program to give middle schoolers the opportunity to be part of a show and have their own moment of accomplishment.

“We noticed that most of the acting programs available focus more on singing and dancing than the acting itself,” Schmults said. “The ones that were a little more acting related are all pretty expensive, so not every kid has easy access to them.”

In addition to giving middle schoolers the opportunity to be part of a show, junior director Sophie Yang, said that despite some of the challenges, Zoom has made it easier to get kids involved and excited about acting.

“In terms of the stage experience and the acting experience, I think it’s definitely hard, as a director, trying to teach the kids over Zoom without being able to actually show them what they should be doing,” Yang said. “But all in all, I think Zoom has made it easier for the kids to sign up; it gives them a little more ease of transport. It’s easier to click on to a rehearsal instead of driving there two times a week.”

Junior Camryn Lezama, who joined the group of directors at Spotlight Theatre in the fall, said he wants to make sure the kids are able to get a lot out of the program, while also being able to have fun and enjoy themselves, especially given the current circumstances of the world.

“We’re trying to balance the amount of work and the amount of fun that the kids are able to have, so it doesn’t feel like it’s a debt on them or anything like that,” Lezama said. “That it’s still an extracurricular that’s fun to do.”

Drama teacher Elena Maimonis, who is one of the advisors for Spotlight Theatre, said that the program has given middle schoolers a social outlet as well as a sense of community in a time where opportunities like these are scarce.

“So many after-school activities are canceled, and even if they’re not canceled, they’re virtual, but they’re missing that community,” Maimonis said. “Having these rehearsals after school in group settings allows them to have a social outlet and connect with not only their own friends, but students from other middle schools.”

Despite the uncertainty of the world right now, the students running the Spotlight Theatre program are committed to giving middle schoolers a fun after-school experience that will help boost their acting skills.

“I think what’s awesome about it is that it’s all student directed. They’re really learning from students that they might even be acting within a couple of years, and then they’ll get to know them in a different way,” Maimonis said. “It’s an awesome opportunity for the directors to start to see what it’s like on the other side at such a young age. You learn so much more about yourself and about what it’s like as a director, so when you do go back to acting, you have a different perspective.”