By Caitlin Howle

We are always thrilled to hear how participating in our Young Actors Summer Institute (YASI) affects our students and what they’ve learned. We sat down with 13-year-old Emma Sheldon, who has been a YASI student for three years, and her dad, Mark Sheldon. Emma is happy to say that YASI has helped her grow and has enriched her life. “I’m more confident than I thought I was,” says Emma, laughing, “My parents used to say that I was a church mouse playing the cello, I was so quiet!”

Emma Sheldon in the YASI Shakes production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream this summer

Mark Sheldon loves what YASI and theater have done for his daughter. He says, “[Trinity Rep] is one of the most powerfully-voiced institutions in the Creative Capital. Emma has been exposed to all of these amazing artists who are living the life she wants to live. They are enormously kind and generous with their knowledge.” He reiterates that Trinity Rep’s classes are about finding your voice as an artist and not about just being in the limelight.

Emma has loved the classes she’s taken at Trinity Rep during the summer so much that’s she has expanded into our school year theater programs and our specialty classes like Junior Ensemble. Not only has she learned Improv and Shakespeare, but that “theater is a community.” She loves getting to know her fellow community members, including Trinity Rep resident company members.

Emma made her Trinity Rep debut last year as mini-Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors and said it was one of the most profound experiences she’s had. It’s not about being an actor, or a star, though Emma does want to act as a profession. She says that theater and Trinity Rep have taught her, “theater is an expression and an art form that can communicate anything. It makes a safe space for all.” She says that her favorite plays are ones about social change.

Echoing her sentiments, Emma’s dad Mark Sheldon says, “Expose your kids to some kind of theater.” He shared that being a parent with a child in theater has helped their family, too. “Hard conversations are easier to have within the context of theater.”

The “church mouse,” as Emma says she was, is now flourishing. Not only does she take her classes and acts in plays around the state, but she also has her own YouTube channel where she interviews actors on what makes them confident and what helped them as young actors.

Registration for YASI 2020 will begin in January, but Trinity Rep has several trimester classes (see below) that students can sign up for. Please visit TrinityRep.com/youthclasses. Space is limited and financial aid is available.