Plymouth Performing Arts Center: Over 20 Years of Performance Education for All Ages
From toddlers to teens, there is a path to the stage for everyone at Plymouth Performing Arts Center.
In the early 2000s, Darryl Schick thought his Plymouth Meeting neighborhood could use a performing arts school for families. “There were no drama, theater or music schools here, and I wanted my kids to have something like it,” he says. “Turned out, a lot of parents had the same feeling I did.” So Darryl started the Plymouth Performing Arts Center (PPAC). Twenty years later, the success of PPAC is undeniable, both from the number of students they have to the longevity of time they attend the school.
“We have kids who started with us when they were 2 or 3 and they’ve graduated high school. Arts enhance many important aspects of their lives.”
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“The First Notes Baby-Toddler Music Class at the Plymouth Performing Arts Center is truly one of a kind. It’s basically a Baby & Me class while also being an amazing 45-minute performance by the teachers. The variety of their songs throughout the class sequence is so fun! Some are loud and exciting, some are lullabies, some are for dancing or movement, and some are for learning music basics. All of the songs are perfect for the age group!! The instructors also really care about the families and each child is said hello to in the opening song. I’ve heard from other families that their kids’ personalities have blossomed because of this music class. My kiddo has a big personality already, and I very much appreciate that the teachers welcome my child with the warmest smiles and laughs. Seeing my toddler be accepted and welcomed for who he is and all of the energy he brings means a lot to me and my family. What a welcoming and inclusive experience.” ~ Kathy T.
This unique school is screen-free and has a variety of offerings for kids of all ages, from baby and toddler music classes to individual voice and piano lessons to summer camp and, of course, a robust theater program. The theater experience offers kids everything they’d expect, like a stage for shows and recitals, and a theater that holds 210 in reserved seats for their performances. What they might not expect though, is that they are treated like real actors, by having access to a realistic green room with fun dress-up options featuring over 10,000 props and costumes.
The current location had some fits and starts, despite the popularity of the school; its current location opened inside Plymouth Meeting Mall at the same time COVID-19 started — March 2020. It was the first arts center in a mall in America, with an excellent location on the first floor next to LegoLand, but, of course, the school had to pivot to Zoom for more than a year. But, luckily, it reopened in 2021 and went from 90 kids in their old location to over 300 now. But Darryl and his staff aim for quality, not quantity.
“I have to know every student, staff member, parent — every person here — and I really try to take care of them. If a child has anxiety I try to help parents with issues like that. Because there are a million places you can go to get a music lessons, but we really want parents to know we care about their child.”
Additionally, they keep their class size low to ensure everyone can participate, learn, and enjoy themselves; there are never more than 20 children in a theater class because by limiting the cast size, all kids get a named role, lines, choreography, attention, and opportunity. But what PPAC offers, Darryl says, is about more than arts education; it’s about life skills. “Kids need an activity that fully engages their creativity, fosters social interaction, and nurtures confidence to present themselves in front of other people. It’s not just about the role, it’s the art of figuring out how to channel emotional expressiveness and feelings to others.”
One emotion in particular that is linked to kindness is empathy, something Darryl cites is learned at PPAC through acting. “They learn so much about empathy by playing other roles, by being someone other than themselves. What they take away from it is a broader understanding of themselves, how they communicate, and their emotions. Very few will pursue arts but they take away all these other life skills.”
PPAC programs and staff also help kids overcome hurdles and address fears that accompany childhood, like anxiety and shyness. While it seems counterintuitive, this program is fantastic for them. “One student who participated in a performance of Frozen took some time to warm up to the idea of theater class. But after a week of practice, before she went on stage, she said, ‘I’m not scared because Elsa isn’t scared.'”
Overall, Darryl is really proud of what he’s built. “I didn’t appreciate what I was creating until I saw kids growing up with us. What we offer is more than classes. It’s lifelong friendship, life skills, and a community.”
Or contact them at 610 647-7600 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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“Justin, the Theatre teacher, and all the staff at PPAC are great with that they do and know what the kids need to learn and perform well. The facilities are great and have all they need to create an exemplary show that showcases all the kids’ talents. I highly recommend Plymouth Meeting Performing Arts Center.” ~ Nikki G.
“I am overly impressed by this organization’s level of dedication and patience for working with kids at the youngest of ages and bringing them out of their shell to do something most kids would never be able to do on their own. My son had no idea he could do something like this and loved every bit of the experience after gaining the confidence through the support he was given.” ~ Sarah G.
“My daughter participated in summer theater camp and she thoroughly enjoyed it. Her confidence was boosted and her skills improved. This helped her in her school performances later in the year too where she got one of the main role in the play. She became more open for solo performances in singing too.” ~ Nivi N.