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Downtown: All the world's a stage for some kids, parents

The weeklong toddler program involves parents as actors and as acting coaches for their kids.

By ELIZABETH MILLER
Published June 4, 2004

Imagine your child has his own personal stage show. The actor performs Old Mother Hubbard, but in country-western style, and the child giggles and tries to imitate.

Now imagine the actor on stage is you.

The Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center is offering a new class to teach parents how to entertain their young children. Creative Parenting Through Performing starts Monday and runs as weeklong camps through the summer. In the fall, it will hold classes weekly.

Tramelle Taylor recently tried the class with other members of her moms' group, Mocha Moms.

"My kids have a video karaoke machine and love seeing themselves on TV," said Taylor, a mother of two.

Creative Parenting Through Performing aims to help parents incorporate live arts into their toddlers' daily interactions. It shows parents how to role play and assume different characters to become more dramatic, entertaining and engaging with their children.

"I learned a lot. I learned how to incorporate song and dance into our routine, like during our downtime at night," said Taylor, who lives in Carrollwood. "My daughter learned how to do a puppet show. She goes behind the couch with her stuffed animals and does Old McDonald. She's only 2."

Instructor Amy Leavitt said the goal was to offer something different and unique for parents and their kids. It's one of many classes the center is introducing as part of the opening of the Dr. Pallavi Patel Performing Arts Conservatory this fall.

The class, which costs $95 for the weeklong camp, differs from many toddler programs because it relies heavily on parent participation, Leavitt said. Some parents were tentative at first, she said, but by the end were laughing and enjoying themselves as much as the kids.

"They thought it was so funny to see mom slapping my knees doing a country-western version of Mother Hubbard," Taylor said. "Now we do it at home, and get Dad involved, and we all come up with our own version."

Wendy Leigh, executive director of the arts conservatory, came up with the idea based on her own experience as a stay-at-home mom. She yearned for more creative and fulfilling things to do with her daughters but didn't know what to do.

"A lot of moms have creativity that they may not be tapping into or may be too self-conscious," Leigh said.

The class introduces theater to young children while teaching parents basic acting skills.

"We want to show parents that just by using their voices or different things around the house . . . they can introduce theater into the life of the child," Leavitt said. "Rather than having their kids watch a movie, parents can pull out a book and act out the story. This can be a foundation that will get kids to love the stage and love performing arts."

- For information on Creative Parenting Through Performing and other new classes at the center, call 222-1047 or go to www.patelconservatory.org

[Last modified June 3, 2004, 10:50:24]

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