Apprentice Players program helps youth develop confidence, performing skills

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Amy King has watched how her son has benefited from his experience with the Belfy Theatre Apprentice Players.

King, an assistant director with the program, started bringing Jace to rehearsals with her three years ago.

“He was my little shadow,” King said. “He wouldn’t really talk. He was very quiet. Jace was really shy and struggled with self-confidence. With his shyness and not wanting to speak in front of people, he had a lot of anxiety.”

Slowly, James H. Williams, who has since become program director, got Jace involved with set construction. Jace then started working with the stage crew.

“He got interested in singing but wouldn’t sing or act in front of (people),” King said.

Fast forward to this year and Jace, who turns 11 July 25, audition for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“He earned himself three different roles and he really has blossomed,” King said. “I think he can express himself in characters in ways he can’t express himself (off stage).”

Jace will join the Apprentice Players in “Honk! Jr.: The Musical” July 26 to Aug. 4 at the Belfry Theatre in Noblesville.

Jace, who will be a sixth-grader at Sand Creek Intermediate in Fishers, said he always wanted to act and sing.

“I was just too shy to do it,” he said. “I needed to fight through it and just do it.”

King said theater helps boost confidence for all youth.

“Performing before a live audience makes children feel empowered,” said King, the technology specialist for Fishers Elementary School.

James H. Williams, a Fishers resident, began running the program when longtime program director Connie Murello-Todd, a Noblesville resident, died at age 70 in August 2018.

“This whole season has been dedicated to her memory and her hard work,” Williamson said.

Williams said “Honk Jr.” is one of the first shows Murello-Todd ever directed.

“That’s very fitting,” he said.

The program started in 1965.

“Betty Lou Kyle started the program to give the kids in the community the ability to learn about the fine arts, whether directing, acting, singing and costumes,” Williams said. “We try to incorporate training into it because we are not going to be here forever. Several of our young people, our older teens are stepping into directing, lighting and costuming.”

In summers of odd numbered years, the Belfy produces plays for ages 5 to 13. Even numbered years are for ages 13 to 20.


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