COLUMBIA — Stephens College President Dianne Lynch's daughter, Annie Coleman, already had a love for acting when they moved to Columbia in 2009.
After asking around for good theater programs, Lynch said, her daughter joined the Theater Reaching Young People & Schools — commonly referred to as TRYPS — family.
"I have seen what the program has done for my daughter and the community of students who have grown up in TRYPS," Lynch said of her now 16-year-old daughter. "I was sitting in a TRYPS meeting last spring and thought, gosh, I wonder if they would want to come join us at Stephens."
Lynch announced at a news conference Thursday morning that TRYPS will join with the School of Performing Arts as the TRYPS Institute at Stephens College, effective April 1. The nonprofit children's theater program trains and educates young actors, ranging in age from 10 months old to the college years.
Through the partnership, Stephens students will receive training in children's theater through coursework and participation in TRYPS camps and programs.
"This will add another training ground to our existing pre-professional programs with great potential for employment upon graduation," said Mimi Hedges, interim dean of the School of Performing Arts.
Lynch said Stephens is delighted to add one of the most respected, influential children's programs to its campus.
"TRYPS grads have gone on to be in films or be on Broadway," she said of children who have participated in the program. "Children's theater is one of the fastest growing areas of the performing arts in the world. This is an obvious opportunity for us."
Currently located at the Columbia Mall, TRYPS will move to Hickman Hall on the Stephens campus in the spring, Lynch said.
Hickman Hall is undergoing renovations to accommodate the new institute, according to a Stephens news release. TRYPS families and community members have been invited to take a construction tour of the program's new home from 1 to 4 p.m. on March 16.
Jill Womack, TRYPS's executive artistic director, said she is excited to have a permanent home at Stephens that will allow all TRYPS classes, programs and camps to be held in one place. The theater program, which is entering its 15th season, will have triple the classroom and rehearsal capacity at Hickman Hall.
"We won't be as close to Panera's coffee, which is tragic," Womack said of the group's current location at the mall. "But this is a brilliant, stunning moment for us to really create a program that runs from cradle to college."
The first TRYPS Institute production will be "Willy Wonka Jr.," set to run April 4 to 6 at the Macklanburg Playhouse. Future productions and recitals will also be held at Warehouse Theatre and Historic Senior Hall, according to the release.
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