A Beautiful Ruckus: Studio Playground

Studio Playground provides children, teens, and adults the opportunity to learn the art of clown and physical acting. They ask that everyone arrive as their true self and leave their social masks at home.


“Studio Playground supports students in their individual growth and inspires audiences to engage in meaningful discourse by enacting our core values — inclusivity, empowerment, and social change,” write artistic directors Matthew Bretschneider and Anna Basile over email.

Opening its doors in July 2020, Studio Playground was a rare positive that came out of the COVID pandemic. Bretschneider and cofounder Stefanie Resnick felt that social development opportunities were lacking due to the lockdowns, which created challenges and stress for families, especially children. The initial goal was to provide a way for youth in isolation to connect through physical acting and social-emotional learning. They planned to create a developmentally appropriate curriculum that applies concepts based in clown and physical acting.

Today, Studio Playground serves over 500 students annually. They partner with schools, theater companies, and non-profit organizations throughout RI and southern MA and are always interested in collaborating with new partners. They received grant awards from the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts (RISCA) and the Rhode Island Foundation to fund their Craft & Create program and Performing Arts in Libraries (PAL) programs in partnership with Community Libraries of Providence (CLPVD). 
The programs include weekly classes, acting and performance workshops, private lessons, and after-school programs. Their staff includes an array of professional teaching artists, some with masters-level education. Their successful program model has helped them grow, most recently by expanding their Board of Directors to include experts in child development, social work, arts administration, and financial planning. 

“We believe all children deserve opportunities for creative enrichments and social-emotional learning benefits derived from arts education programs,” Bretschneider and Basile write. “Lacking access to programs that build confidence and social awareness divides community members from their resources and deprives children of essential elements for healthy development.”

Parents and students alike rave about the program. They feel that Studio Playground provides an inclusive and engaging atmosphere. The passionate teachers allow students to explore and discover without judgment, while building their confidence and letting them develop skills at their own pace.

Their flagship program is an annual summer camp at Lincoln Woods State Park. Bretschneider and Basile describe it as a unique outdoor theater camp. The camp embodies the same principles of exploring the benefits of laughter through movement, performance, and improv.

They explain, “Laughter and performing arts entail benefits which transcend socioeconomic status and cultural differences.”

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