by Shareen Berkowitz and Amy Daniels

Performing the works of William Shakespeare is intimidating to the most practiced of thespians. Presenting a Shakespearian script to group of adolescents, one might not expect the level of excitement expressed by the Whirligig Youth Academy. Elana Kepner and Jason Coale, owners of Whirligig Stage in Greenville, NC have found a group of young people who love the challenge and opportunity of performing. The group is currently working on a production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with performances beginning November 7, 2019.

Participating in theater often resonates strongly with pre-teen and teenagers because it is an expression of a basic human need creating meaning through acting out stories. Being part of a theater production can draw normally shy participants out of their shells, help them to socialize and produce lasting bonds. It also promotes mindfulness in an age when so much of our communication happens in front of a screen.

Parents are often worried that getting children involved in a theatrical production might be biting off more than they can chew. What if the kids don’t understand the production process? What if going to rehearsals becomes a hassle rather than a treat? What if kids were disappointed in their performance? Will theater be a fun, worthwhile endeavor—or will it be a headache?

Parents of the Whirligig Youth Academy have nothing to worry about. Kepner’s teaching style and guidance creates a positive atmosphere in which the young participants thrive.

Veteran Whirligig Youth Academy performer Brielle Berkowitz says, “The moment I walked in the front door of Whirligig, I felt accepted and at home.”  Berkowitz, a sixth-grader at A.G. Cox Middle School, has starred in five Whirligig Youth Academy theatrical performances and is now trying her hand at some of the production aspects of theater as a stage manager, part of the tech crew for Macbeth.

Working as part of a production team helps students develop a sincere appreciation for the work and dedication of actors, directors, set designers, and production staff. It promotes a community mindset as groups of family and friends bond while sitting next to one another at performances. Theater is a truly extraordinary form of artistic expression that brings people from all walks of life together for a unique and magical shared experience.

Whirligig Stage, in Uptown Greenville, hosts a wide range of entertainment offerings every month, including musical theater productions, improv, plays, variety shows, performances by local musicians, comedy shows and more.

As Greenville grows, local residents have the opportunity to help expand the arts and culture scene. Supporting Whirligig Stage and other arts venues will help keep the arts as a vital part of Uptown culture. Enjoying the offerings of other locally owned businesses in Uptown such as Ford + Shep, Smashed Waffles, Luna Pizza, Starlight Café, Cinnamon Indian Cuisine, Winslow’s, Jack Brown’s Burgers MPorium, and Pitt Street Brewery allow you to make a night out that includes all local dinner, show, and a night cap.

Whirligig Stage is located at 628 S Pitt Street in Greenville. To learn more about upcoming events, classes, camps, and offerings, visit or call (252) 689-8092.

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