Theatre students share talents with Erie Playhouse


Senior theatre and communication arts majors Zak Westfall and Jenna Sulecki, are sharing their current knowledge of theater with local children through the Erie Playhouse.

Having worked with the Erie Playhouse before, Westfall and Sulecki are no strangers to how its operation is run. Westfall said he has worked with the Playhouse in a few ways now.

“I have been on stage for three shows there and I codirected the youth theatre summer series show [“Dorothy in Wonderland”] with Jenna,” Westfall said. “I think that [these classes] will be quite similar to our directing experience this summer. The kids are very close in age and we had to teach the cast some things as we went anyway so I think this will work out really well.”

As part of the Playhouse’s Youtheatre program, Sulecki and Westfall will be instructors for Imagination Station, a beginners acting class for children between the ages of 5-9, and Beginning Musical Theatre, which will cater to kids who are around 8 to 11-years-old. Both of these classes will focus on students gaining a basic understanding of acting and the audition process.

Westfall said the most important thing they want their students take out of these classes is a further interest in theater. Ultimately, the classes will focus on the main goal of Youtheatre, which is to allow young people to explore all the different areas of theater.

For the last day of classes, Sulecki said the kids will put on a performance for their parents where they can showcase what they’ve learned.

“It will be cool to see them put to use all of the things we’ve taught them and see just how much they’ve grown,” Sulecki said. “There are a few really shy students we have that I can’t wait to see come out of their shell, as well.”

Kate Neubert- Lecher, the Youtheatre coordinator at the Erie Playhouse, said when the Playhouse involves college students with its youth productions they often bring great energy, a fresh perspective and can help to look at things from different angles.

“It’s a great way for the students to apply what they’re learning in the classroom and get hands on experience working on a production, with the assistance of myself or any of our other seasoned directors,” Neubert-Lecher said. “I watched a few [of Westfall and Sulecki’s] rehearsals and loved the way they worked together with the cast. They’re both talented actors, but in addition to that, wonderful at communicating the basic concepts of acting and stagecraft.”

The Rev. Shawn Clerkin, associate professor of theatre and director of theatre, said teaching, regardless of the age of the pupil, always helps the instructor to reinforce what they know.

“Zak and Jenna are sure to have their skills in acting reinforced and changed, and their passions and love for theater will inspire their students,” Clerkin said.

Westfall said he finds teaching to be the best way to learn and will help solidify his own learning of theater.

“Anything that I can do relating to theater will further my potential careers, especially since I would love to teach theater as part of grad school and/or after/during a potential acting career,” Westfall said.

Even though she can’t say she knows exactly what she wants to do, Sulecki said she knows that whatever it is has to be related to theater.

“Theater has been my No. 1 passion my whole life, so it’s wonderful to have such a great opportunity like this to pass on my knowledge and enhance the kids’ passion,” Sulecki said.