Everyone who has heard of Savannah Children’s Theatre knows that we produce plays. With 22 shows this season alone, sometimes our little place on Victory Drive seems like a veritable theatre factory! But what we really do is so much more than audiences and actors, costumes and glitter. (Though, make no mistake, the glitter is vital.)
If you take away the microphones and the amber-gelled lights, the live orchestra and the hot popcorn, what is left? If you peel away the layers of make-up and wigs, choreography and harmonies, and get down past the outward beauty of a musical, past the firm skeleton of a play, down to the very heart of our theatre, what is left?
SCT exists to provide all children with a safe and creative environment for character development by teaching appreciation for performing arts. All children. Not “talented” children (that’s a post for another day) or “dramatic” children (and another), but all children. Sometimes the shyest kid in class turns out to have the biggest voice, or the loudest attention-seeker turns out to have the most stage fright. Our teachers live for those moments of self-discovery! They celebrate the class-clown finally being able to play a serious scene without cracking up, and they loudly cheer the child with a lisp or a stutter who finishes their speech without giving up.
Our teachers empower young people every day to try new things and feel new sensations. They help the pint-sized diva to learn humility, and they build up the confidence of the socially awkward. We try every day to meet every child where they are and hold their hand until they are ready to move to the next step. Whether they be theatrically gifted, academically challenged, living with a disability, or just plain stubborn, we recognize that each of our students learn in different ways, and we do our best to speak to their strengths.
A word about students with special needs. We have them and we love them immeasurably. This season we have had 552 students in our theatre program, and 12,274 students in our field trip program. We cannot tell you how many special needs students we have because we do not “track” them. We do not single them out, tally them, or publish their numbers so we can get extra grant money. Our students with special needs are treated just like everyone else; we meet them where they are and embolden them to perform. All of our teachers have seen their special needs students make great strides in challenging areas; but the same wonderful transformations can be seen in our neurotypical/non-disabled students as well.
The contents of the lives changed within SCT’s purple walls could fill a book, one that I hope is written and displayed in our lobby some day. This book would tell stories of children with blindness learning to do choreography, students with Downs Syndrome learning monologues, teenagers with ukuleles writing their own music, and kids with broken homes learning how to be part of a family unit again; our theatre family.
We don’t only make theatre. We make connections. We teach children to look up from their screens and look into each other’s eyes. We teach them to look beyond their limitations and find themselves. We strive daily to fulfill our mission statement; to inspire, to educate, and to entertain. That is what we really do.