Inside Youth Studio
An Interview with Barbara and Frances Arnold
By Erin Rose, Education Enrollment and Marketing Coordinator
Frances Arnold began taking acting classes with Hartford Children’s Theatre when she was six years old. When Hartford Stage acquired the Children’s Theatre program in 2012, Frances started taking classes as part of our Youth Studio program, and she’s been with us ever since. Now a confident 13-year-old, Frances was just featured as the delightfully ditzy Princess Trouty in Hartford Stage Fall Studio’s production of The Bluebird Prince. Recently, Frances and her mother, Barbara, were kind enough to answer a few questions about their experiences with Hartford Stage Education classes.
Frances, tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you like to do besides acting?
FRANCES: Besides acting I like watching YouTube, listening to music and writing. I write fan fiction, short stories, and plays (including one that was staged at Hole in the Wall Theater when I was nine years old, entitled, Cinderella Without the Prince.)
Frances has been taking classes with us for quite some time. What was it that first interested your family in our programs?
BARBARA: Frances has always been very creative and dramatic, and she had trouble making friends when she was younger. We first got interested in the programs when her preschool teacher told us about the program and thought it might be a good creative outlet for Frances where she could meet other like-minded kids. Acting and theatre had always been part of our lives, so it was a natural decision. Then Frances loved it, and we kept signing up for different classes and productions. When the [Hartford Children’s Theatre] was taken over by Hartford Stage, it got even stronger, with many of the teaching artists moving over and a broader set of resources to back up the programs.
What keeps bringing you back to Hartford Stage Education, year after year?
BARBARA: As a parent, I know that performing arts help build confidence that can be used in many ways (I was a competitive dancer growing up and did theatre and singing as well). We keep coming back because of the people, the staff, the kids, and most importantly, the programs that teach acting skills and the performing that builds confidence.
FRANCES: I keep coming back because I’m shy, and I like the feeling of being someone else on stage. Also, I’ve made a lot of good friends in the programs.
Frances, what has been your favorite part of doing Hartford Stage programs?
FRANCES: My absolute favorite part is the people. I’ve liked the teachers and directors and have made many friends. I also like the thrill of the stage, and I learn a lot of things about acting that I can’t get at school. I love to do the summer [Youth Ensemble] program the most, and the annual trip to New York to see a show is always fun. My favorite was going to see Wicked (it is my FAVORITE musical). It was the bomb!
Barbara, do you think Hartford Stage programs have had any sort of impact on Frances at school or in her social life?
BARBARA: The Hartford Stage programs have made in impact on Frances, particularly in her social life. After struggling to find friends in her first few years at school, making long term friends in theater has helped her confidence, and she now has a wide circle of friends. She’s still shy but knows she can get up and perform a role in a show, and the earth won’t swallow her up. It’s also taught her a lot about teamwork, because the production is dependent upon all the players. I believe her participation in the programs at Hartford Stage will help her as she continues on in school, and there are more presentations…she will be able to fall back on her acting skills and performing tricks to feel more comfortable making the presentations (leading to better grades!).
Frances, what would you like to do in the future? Do you think any of the skills you learned at Hartford Stage could help you with that in some way?
FRANCES: I think I would like to act in a play on Broadway at least once or perform on stage with Taylor Swift! I’d also like to be a YouTuber…my training to always focus on the audience and be confident would help me make popular videos.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about Hartford Stage Education programs?
BARBARA: The Hartford Stage programs are a great way for creative kids to meet other kids who have similar interests. Also, with cutbacks in so many school districts, theater arts have taken a hit across the state and there are fewer offerings in after-school programs. Since theater is such a fun way to learn how to present yourself and make friends, we are grateful that such a well-developed program exists. I’ve also met a lot of parents who deal with similar challenges raising a creative child. Frances is not the only student who has made new friends in the program, and sharing our experiences (and pride when the kids perform) is another great benefit.
FRANCES: The program is super fun, and I’ve learned that you can do anything if you set your mind to it!
For more information on Hartford Stage Youth Education programs, please visit www.hartfordstage.org/education or call 860-520-7244.