The Old Brick Playhouse Company Apprentice Program

The Old Brick Playhouse Company Apprentice Program

The Old Brick Playhouse Company
PO Box 2716
Elkins, WV 26241
Phone: 304-637-9090
Fax: 304-637-0420

Focus: Theater

Annual Number Participating: 89

Ages: Middle School, High School

Annual Budget: $40,000


“Located in Elkins, a small West Virginia town with few extracurricular activities besides sports or band, The Old Brick Playhouse has established itself as the cool place where middle and high school students go to hang out when the school bell rings at the end of the day.

From October to May, participants spend at least three afternoons a week at The Playhouse, developing acting, movement, and technical skills. And, as the annual spring production nears, on weekends, the apprentices devote extra time to rehearsing and preparing costumes, sets, lights, and sound.

The popular program, which attracts youth throughout Randolph and adjacent counties, turns no one away. During its most recent season, 89 young people participated. The theater accommodates large numbers of students by dividing them into subgroups and encouraging older apprentices to act as mentors to younger ones. Older students can also volunteer additional afternoons each week, to serve as literacy tutors to elementary school children, using scripts to teach reading skills.

In a rural state grappling with high levels of childhood obesity, diabetes, and drug abuse, as well as high drop-out rates, The Playhouse’s program is a proven model for prevention. “Theater allows the escapism and ‘wild abandon’ that teenagers are always looking for, without doing things that are harmful to others,” Executive Director Missy McCollam explains.
Many apprentices remain in the program for all seven years, making The Playhouse literally their home away from home during this critical adolescent period. Young people develop self-confidence and a sense of responsibility, while the collaborative working relationships instill teamwork and a respect for each other’s differences.

The community’s strong support contributes to the program’s success. Although the organization charges students a modest $40 a month to participate, local businesses underwrite scholarships for about half of the apprentices. In addition, county residents turn out in big numbers for the spring production to celebrate the young people’s accomplishments.

Many participants continue their studies in the arts at college. However, the program’s 1,500 alumni also include a good number of successful professionals in other fields. “It’s amazing how much talent comes out of here,” remarks McCollam.”

“While most attempts to improve conditions for children and youth focus on intervention and treatment, our programs seek prevention through education and the arts. The hallmark of our organization is the use of live theater as the vehicle through which participants become engaged in learning and develop greater self-esteem.”

Missy McCollam Executive Director, The Old Brick Playhouse Company Apprentice Program