Some area children spent the last four weeks honing their acting skills.

The Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival, the theater group associated with Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma, recently completed its annual children’s theater workshop.

The workshop students will be performing the plays the students were working on over the next two weekends.

“The Lion King” will be performed by children in the 4-13 age group and it will show at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. “Seussical, the Musical” will show at 7 p.m. July 8 and at 2 p.m. on July 9 with young people in the 14-21 age group.

“OSF Children’s Theatre is an opportunity for the kids of the community to come together for the summer and have a fun experience while learning about what goes into a show,” workshop group leader Jenna McWilliams said. “Yes, attention spans can be shorter with the kids. A few things we enjoy is keeping the kids busy with crafts that relate to the show, teaching them about stage directions, sometimes having contests to see who can say their lines the loudest and most clear, and teaching them how to work together to make the magic of theater happen.”

McWilliams is a past participant in the workshop and is now a professional actress that will perform in all four of the main stage productions of OSF next season.

“The Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival workshops allow kids to step out of their comfort zone and express themselves through an art form that we can learn to appreciate,” she said. “Theater is a great way for kids to branch out. Friendships that last a lifetime are made. It’s important for people of all ages because the life lessons can be used in any job you take on. You learn how to communicate, memorize well, work with others and know that early is always on time.”

The children’s theater at OSF has had many names over the years, but some form of the program has been a part of the organization since its founding. This is the 38th season for both.

The “Seussical, the Musical” musical director is Deborah Clements, who is also the Durant High School choir director.

“Drama is a confidence booster,” she said. “Even the shyest child will gain self esteem and it doesn’t take long for them to become an active participant. Drama helps concentration and builds communication skills. Playing games, learning songs, and being encouraged to communicate the story and songs through verbal lines and facial expression, help build vocabulary and is vital in communication skills.”

Drama also teaches cooperation, concentration and emotional intelligence, Clements said, adding drama and music help with physical development.

“One of the most important skills that is developed that is lost in most traditional school subjects is creativity,” she said. “In most traditional subjects, creativity isn’t taught. Students involved in drama, music and dance are encouraged to be creative. Through pretending and improvisation, students develop their creativity skills. The creative teenager will be the person to find a cure for diseases and discover how to take care of our planet.”

Anyone can see musicals in larger cities, Clements said, but going to local shows builds community involvement.

“I’ve watched the shyest and most insecure teenager gain the confidence to speak in front of an audience,” she said. “I’ve watched the uncoordinated teenager begin to keep a beat. I’ve witnessed the stronger students encourage and cheer for the less confident teenager. The smiles and looks of accomplishment is evident on their faces during the bows.”