MIX IT UP: Teachers Karolyn Gibson, Shirley Barnett and Arlene Cole discuss a script for the group.
MIX IT UP: Teachers Karolyn Gibson, Shirley Barnett and Arlene Cole discuss a script for the group. Belinda Scott

Mix It Up theatre students mix it up on dancefloor

HIGH kicks, cabaret routines and spooky Shakespearean crones- the Mix It Up theatre students are tackling them all.

With senior directors, actors, dancers and teachers from Coffs Coast community theatre group CHATS Productions , young people with disabilities are learning theatre skills.

They are discovering what is involved in auditioning for parts in productions; learning scripts, exploring physical theatre; finding out how to synchronise their moves as part of a chorus line and how to develop a character on stage

And there is no doubt that the teachers are enjoying the process just as much as the students.

Veteran stage performer Arlene Cole, who spends almost every night of the week rehearsing shows, dancing or singing, says the Tuesday Mix class is her favourite.

" I get the most learning out of it," Arlene said."

"It's just a joy – I love my Tuesday nights."

Arlene gets out on the floor at the old St John's church hall, making light of a half-century age difference to don stratospheric high heels and hoof it alongside her young charges, displaying an impressive pair of pins.

Shirley Barnett, in her 80s the doyenne of the region's directors and known as a strict taskmaster, pulls no punches from her armchair, but is generous with her praise when the students step up another notch.

"Some of them, the boys particularly, have taken a long time to get to where they are now," Shirley said

What comes across in this class, as well as their developing skills, is the energy and fun the students put into their work and transmit back to their teachers.

"The idea came from a FundAbility course my daughter (physical theatre star and director Sue Broadway) ran last year," Shirley Barnett said.

That course was supported by the Northcott Society.

The 2015 FundAbility workshops were so well received Shirley and several other CHATS members decided to put their own energies into a regular weekly after-school class.

"We've already done a few performances and some members have been in a couple of shows," Shirley said.

" Mix It Up is for young people of all ages with all kinds of disabilities," Shirley said

"We do dance, juggling, voice work - they are learning the Witches scene from Macbeth at the moment and sometimes Ann Poidevin brings along stage costumes.

"We are trying to make community groups more accessible.

"I'm loving it and finding it very interesting - I've also learned it's easy to underestimate people."

Anyone is welcome to call in to St Johns hall in Coffs Harbour's McLean St between 4-5pm on Tuesdays and young people of all ages and any disabilities are welcome to join in.

The cost is $5 to to cover the cost of the hall hire.


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