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Sep 18, 2012 8:52 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

New Group Offers Therapy Through Theater

Sep 19, 2012 8:25 AM

For those in theater, it holds true that the process often is worth more than the product. The magic of the final performance, with perfectly delivered lines and shining lights, is just the cherry on top of weeks of self-discovery and finding one’s confidence on the stage.

East End residents Darby Moore and Kim Galway, who are veterans in the field of drama therapy, have started the Spotlight Theatre Group with the goal of helping children and adolescents find that catharsis and personal development in acting. Classes will be given at the Grange Hall Theatre, located off Sound Avenue in Riverhead, and performances will be presented at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall on Peconic Avenue in downtown Riverhead.

“I was very shy and every situation created anxiety, and to be able to be in the world and in the roles that I was expected to be in—real-life roles—was hard,” Ms. Moore explained during an interview on Saturday. “And learning to do that through theater was how I came to understand that there’s something transformative about taking on these roles that gave me confidence.”

From their private creative arts practice in Westhampton Beach, Ms. Galway and Ms. Moore said the new group, which will begin the fall session for youth age 8 to 18 on Saturday, September 29, will focus on the therapeutic aspect of drama. Both explained that learning how to master roles on stage and expressing oneself by playing a character are skills beneficial for all children and teenagers, especially those with disabilities.

The Spotlight Theatre Group is welcoming children and teens from all backgrounds, including those with disabilities, with or without prior acting experience. The fall session, called “Acting for the Theatre,” will feature a performance of “It’s a Wonderful Life” on December 15 and 16 at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, while the spring session, beginning on March 2, will focus on musical theater and will feature a musical production. The group will also be holding a weekly adult acting program beginning on Wednesday, October 10, as well as special workshops for students with special needs and a winter improve troupe. Maribeth Mundell, a professional vocalist and vocal coach, will offer private and group vocal lessons on Saturdays.

“We want them all to have the opportunity to feel like they are in the spotlight and like they are important and heard,” Ms. Galway said.

Though participants will audition for roles at the first fall session, Ms. Moore explained that they try to make every child feel welcome and comfortable with the part that they have, and sometimes even work with them to add their own lines or monologues to the plays. “It empowers them,” Ms. Moore said.

Ms. Moore and Ms. Galway aren’t newcomers to theater. They cofounded ACT Out East, a theater group for children and adolescents also based in Riverhead that put on Broadway-style musicals, though that group has since dissolved. Ms. Galway, who lives in East Quogue, received a bachelor’s degree in acting and a master’s degree in drama therapy, both from New York University, and aside from her own acting gigs in various films and plays, she has published work on the benefits of drama therapy for autistic children. She has worked as a theater educator in New York City and on the East End.

“Theater was where I fit in,” Ms. Galway said. “It sort of saved me. It was where I felt good about myself and connected with other people.”

She added that her three daughters—Isabella, 11, Olivia, 8, and Violet, 4—love to act as well.

Ms. Moore received a bachelor’s degree in theater from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, and a master’s degree in drama therapy from New York University. She founded a playhouse in Nashville and also has much experience as a theater educator both in New York City and on the East End. She currently lives in New Suffolk and works in behavioral health at Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport.

Both Ms. Galway and Ms. Moore shared their experiences of working with children—how some discover a natural talent and others work hard to overcome their shyness. The joy in seeing children blossom over the course of the weeks of class, until they are confident enough to perform before a live audience in the final production, is magic, they said.

“They’re just shining, and it’s great to see that,” Ms. Galway said.

The registration fee for the fall junior class, open to children age 8 to 10, is $350 per student; the fee for the senior class, for ages 11 to 18, is $450 per student. More information can be found online at www.spotlighteastend.com, or by calling 631-653-2121.

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