Professionals to lead local theater workshops

Local children will have an opportunity to learn from theater professionals in the coming months. The next workshop at the West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics is Nov. 23. Pictured: Students participate in a workshop alongside a cast member from “Hamilton.”

FERRYSBURG — Local students will have a handful of opportunities to meet and learn from theater professionals in the coming months.

Presented by Celebrity Workshops, the three-hour workshops will provide students the opportunity to learn dancing, singing and acting. Participants will also have a chance to ask questions and receive autographs.

Additionally, the students will gain confidence by being on stage alongside a professional, said Joanna Bennick, the principal of West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics, which is hosting the workshops.

Kevin Tate, a cast member of “The Lion King,” will lead the next workshop that is slated for 8-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Ferrysburg academy.

The workshop is open to ages 8-18. It costs $40 for WMAAA students and $60 for other children. The charter school board is underwriting the remainder of the cost, Bennink noted.

Registration is ongoing and will continue at the door. To register online, visit

In an effort to make WMAAA a hub for performing arts, the school is ramping up community outreach efforts. Last year, students participated in a workshop with a cast member from “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Given the feedback and the positive experience the students had, Bennink said they wanted to offer additional opportunities this year.

Workshops coming up include “Hamilton: An American Musical” on Feb. 1, “Wicked” on April 18 and “Dear Evan Hansen” on June 20.

When children attend next month’s workshop, they will work with Tate, who is originally from Washington, D.C., and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Tate starred in the original role of Jackie Thibodeaux in “Caroline, or Change.” His company dance experience includes Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Collage Dance Collective.

Tate said performing in “The Lion King” has, in many ways, changed his life.

“It is very well organized and structured,” he said. “Everyone and everything has a place and a purpose. It’s incredible to perform for sold-out audiences every night.”

Tate said he performs 8-12 times a week, and although it can be difficult to perform the same show every day, it challenges him to make it a new experience for himself and the audiences because it’s always someone’s first time seeing the show.

In addition to working with a cast member, Bennink said she hopes the experience will encourage families to watch the Broadway shows and professionals on stage.

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