- Kim Eilian
Our interview for our first summer at Children's Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton in 2021
CMEE: Can you tell us a little more about Little Barn Theatre and your connection to the East End?
Kim E: My husband and I first started coming to the Hamptons 23 years ago when we were dating. We built a house in Watermill in 2011 when we had our first child and soon after discovered CMEE! When Jerome was four and we had our second child Lewie, we discovered Hayground Camp / School. The moment I walked onto the Hayground Campus I felt it would be a perfect setting and place for an old-fashioned Summer Stock musical theatre barn - like in the old Judy Garland / Gene Kelly movie musical “Summer Stock!” and started to investigate children’s theatre, dance and music in the Hamptons.
My thoughts were - someone needs to do for children what the art community has done for adult artists in the Hamptons. We are so close to NYC and the Hamptons at its best is ultimately farms, beaches and artists retreats. Why not have children’s Summer Stock in an authentic summer stock barn (with a high ceiling basement below that eventually could become Lincoln Center style dance and music studios with glass curtain walls - the ultimate dream)? Then bring out young working teaching artists - so much in need of getting away from the city, with so much to offer our children in terms of inspiration and role models, while putting on shows and having daily dance and singing practice and taking advantage of the long, lazy, warm and breezy summer days.
Our Musical Theatre Mommy and Me for ages 0-4 class is the first step in this guided journey into musical theatre and our Musical Theatre camps and classes for ages 5-16 are a summer camp journey and practice that is both inspiring and fun. Our teacher / role model / mentors are incredibly talented and accomplished and well-rounded performing artists with advanced degrees and professional experience and training.
Our very young and older students benefit as they relate to our young teachers. I see my role as the guide in training the teaching artists in the Little Barn philosophy - getting the children dancing and singing the minute they walk into the space. Children are natural dancers and singers, and we approach dance basics, singing and acting - similarly the way children learn to read, as it is a language. Some of our techniques to learn and embody dance steps is to “say” the steps, “sing” the steps, play games with the steps - like freeze dance with the steps. We then find these steps in our LB “dances'' while listening to and following the music, as it tells our bodies what to do, it's part of the story and in the lyrics and music.
It’s very effective and draws the kids into the story. If there is any shyness, it is soon replaced with focus on the story and building confidence that comes from repetition and practice and being engaged in the story and movement.
For kids too young to read, we approach singing with a sing and repeat technique and then add movement to help memorize the songs. With this, acting is happening because we are telling stories with our voices and bodies.
Also, I’d like to mention our private lessons, through this “follow and guide” based philosophy, especially in private lessons, my team has learned how much kids love writing plays! Because of this, in group classes, we involve the kids in playwriting even if they are too young to write. Yet another layer to our approach in putting on shows.
For the moment we are putting on our shows and daily spring and summer practice in our gorgeous dance tent with mirrors, dance floor, piano and sound system at Hayground Camp / School and at CMEE, where we are taking advantage of your gorgeous amphitheatre - we are having mirrors on wheels built and will have a piano and sound system for musical theatre camp and Mommy and Me Musical Theatre classes this spring and summer. It will truly be a summer stock experience.
Camp at CMEE will be a two day per week practice of dancing, singing and acting with a performance at the end of every two-week session. We encourage kids to sign up for as many weeks as possible as each week will be unique and the dancing and singing just gets better and better, as the kids become more comfortable and familiar with the curriculum.
CMEE: What’s your favorite part about teaching children music and dance?
Kim E: So many things! But I would have to say, going through the journey of dance and music with the kids with a combination of guiding and following the children as they come alive with ideas and skills as their confidence and love of theatre grows is my favorite.
CMEE: What are the benefits of performing (beyond having fun)?
Kim E: There are so many benefits! Body and vocal confidence, body intelligence and awareness, good posture, good habits, poise and polish, and being around peers that have similar interests as well as finding role models and mentors in our very talented young teaching artists. Also, the richness that the arts add to our lives and being engaged in wholesome and healthy activities in the fresh air and stress-free outdoors on the east end of Long Island during the beautiful summer months.
CMEE: How do you help a child overcome his or her shyness?
Kim E: I was a shy child and still consider myself an introvert and shy. Dance, singing and acting is a practice and best when you are in a place with people you trust. Also, with practice and repetition and most of all kindness, we encourage the kids to participate in things they are interested in. We pay close attention and listen and guide your kids into the direction they feel most inspired. There are many aspects to putting on shows and we will find the key to their interest and comfort.
CMEE: If you could only listen to 3 soundtracks for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
Kim E: Oh that’s fun! I would have to say the Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp “Movin’ Out” soundtrack - I literally listened to it every day for about 3 years when it came out and still love it 20 years later! Then Jersey Boys - the way it brings songs from the past back with a fresh perspective and then Book of Mormon because it is so funny, courageous and innocent - I grew up with Mormons, they are some of my favorite people and it absolutely captures the well-intentioned innocence of the Mormon missionaries and it's so funny, clever and inspirational!
But if you’ll indulge me - at the moment I’m obsessed with Hamilton, Legally Blond, Matilda, School of Rock, Waitress and SpongeBob the Musical for class. And the modern version of Oklahoma is an absolute masterpiece as well as the latest version of Fiddler on the Roof. Also, I can’t live without the classics - Gypsy, Music Man, My Fair Lady, Anything Goes... to name a few. I could keep going because there are so many musicals too that are so clever with wonderful arrangements and lyrics that I use in class, not to mention so many incredible animated movie musicals like Frozen 2, Trolls 1 and 2 and Sing - with perfect songs and arrangements for class and shows.