Empowered Players add new programs

By Page H. Gifford

EP All Stars and Master Class are two new programs added to the lineup of classes at Empowered Players. Founder Jessica Harris is always mindful of including everyone regardless of abilities by giving them opportunities that are not always available to all youth. Many youth theater programs are often selective and expensive, leaving out those who could benefit the most.

“Our mission is to uplift the human spirit through access to quality arts experiences, youth empowerment, and community service. We have always centered accessibility in our work, primarily by providing free classes and opportunities for students that are based locally in Fluvanna county,” said Harris. 

Her goal is to ensure that classes continue to be accessible to all students of all abilities. EP All Stars was created with this in mind. A new program designed specifically to support students with and without disabilities, interacting and creating with one another. Harris intends to devote additional resources and provide programs for theater education that not only unites communities but creates a welcoming space for everyone.

“We also wanted to foster an inclusive experience that brings together students of various abilities, rather than keeping them sidelined,” she said. Harris modeled her program after similar programs, such as Live Art in Richmond. “They do this tremendous inclusive arts education work.” After about nine months of planning, surveying local parents, and families, meeting with experts in the field, and creating a comprehensive curriculum; Harris launched the EP All Stars program.

“We hope this pilot becomes a semester-long program next year, and that within the next few years, every one of our classes and programs has resources to maintain this level of inclusiveness.”

Harris and EP’s goal has always been that all students can experience the transformative power of theater. Theater arts are often neglected in favor of what others perceive as more meaningful study. But students of all ages benefit from a theater experience because of its social, creative, and interactive elements that teach them about life.

Master Class will bring professionals to EP students so they can advance their knowledge and learn to build on their basic foundational skills. Harris is thrilled to have Wesley Diener, a professional performer, voice educator, and director who is highly sought after for opera, musical theater, and cabaret projects as her first Master Class speaker.

With an impressive resume in musical theater and opera, he has performed across the United States and internationally with many opera companies and most recently, Creative Cauldron for several sold-out solo Cabaret performances in Washington, DC.

 “Wesley is passionate about guiding his students to unlock the natural freedom and power within their voices,” said Harris. Sttudents of all ages have benefited from Diener’s instruction, not just those who choose to up their game for musical theater but also for church and community choirs, public speakers, and more. Diener’s instruction is an example of strengthening one’s capabilities through personal discovery. Theater can always teach us about body movement and voice which gives us all presence.

Empowered Players is happy to return to Carysbrook Performing Arts Center to have their classes, which will conclude with the holiday performance of Rudolph Jr.

“We are so excited to be back in full swing this fall and can’t wait to keep growing from here.”

The EP Program starts on Oct. 22, and Wesley Diener will also present his hour-long talk on voice for all ages, youth to adult, on Oct. 22, from 3-4 p.m. For more information and registration visit https://www.empoweredplayers.com/.

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