Cast Announcement – How I Became a Pirate

Ahoy, thar, land-lubbers!  We suspect ye’ll be wantin’ ter meet the robust crew of our next Kids on Stage show, HOW I BECAME A PIRATE!  This fearsome group auditioned Tuesday last, and be gettin’ ready for a spectacular opening night just four weeks from now!

Jeremy Jacob: Truman Nash
Captain Braid Beard: Noah Edwards
Swill: Taylor Rigsbee
Seymour: James Wirick
Sharktooth: Dawson Cooper
Max: Kalie Swann
Scurvy Dog: Dylan Roberds
Pierre: Madalynn Learman
Pirate Crew: Brennan Bishop, Nathan Cochrane, Lauren Groover, Sophia Hashemi, Jordan McGarity, Reaghan Neal, Paris Prager, Braidyn Rigsbee

How I Became a Pirate Cast

Now, don’t let those nice faces trick you; they’re some o’ the fiercest pirates to ever sail the seven seas!  (Well, except fer that Jeremy Jacob fellow.)  We hope you’ll get yer boardin’ passes and join us for our voyage September 23 – October 2!

What We Really Do

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.)alienportrait3

    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?

     The children.

     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.

5, 6, 7, 8!

We hope you’ve had a wonderful summer, full of music and dancing!  If you caught one or more of our 7 shows this summer, you’ll know that our 2015 Summer Camp Series was a huge success!  Thank you for supporting performing arts in our community, and for doing it with such style!

As Savannah Children’s Theatre continues to grow, we are expanding our Dance for Musical Theatre program.  This year, we will be adding another level of Aerial Silks, as well as welcoming a new teacher into the SCT Family!  Please meet Elizabeth Brookman!

elizabeth   Originally from South Carolina, Elizabeth began her training with Ann Brodie at the Carolina Ballet.  She had further training at the Atlanta Ballet SchoolAmerican Ballet Theater, and Joffrey Ballet, then graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts and joined the Morgan/Scott Ballet Company in NYC.  Falling in love with the performing and traveling, she performed on luxury cruise ships for five years and was able to visit over one hundred countries.   Shows included the classical ballets Swan Lake, Aida, and Carmen, as well as musicals Cats, Cabaret, Chicago and Thoroughly Modern Millie.  Elizabeth moved to China in 2007 to join the Suzhou Ballet Theater.  After one year with the company she moved to Shanghai to perform and teach for Jazz Du Funk until 2015.  Elizabeth looks forward to calling Savannah her home and sharing her experiences to inspire future performers.
jennsilks

We are thrilled to be able to give SCT students the opportunity to learn from theatre artists from all walks of life.  Elizabeth has already choreographed for this year’s Dance Camp, The Colors of My Life, and our Summer Camp production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. She is warm, kind, incredibly talented, and definitely a little on the goofy side!  Our resident choreographer, Jenn Doubleday, will continue to grow and develop our Aerial Silks program, as well as providing choreography for all Junior Company, Kids on Stage, and Main Stage productions.

Of course, dance is faaaaaar from the only thing SCT has to offer!  This year we have Creative Dramatics for PreK – 1st graders, Creative Dramatics I (The Emperor’s New Clothes) for 2nd-5th graders, Creative Dramatics II (Great Expectations the Musical) for middle schoolers, and Junior Company (A Servant of Two Masters) for high school students!

   To register for classes, click HERE! 

   Come on.  You know you want to.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about classes or scheduling, please feel free to write to us.  We hope to see all of you soon!

New Heights! by Jenn Doubleday

     I’ve always wanted to be in the circus.greensilks

     Coming from a carnie family, the desire to run away with a caravan runs deep.  Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t trade my SCT family and the life it has allowed me to lead for anything.  Buuuuuut if some sort of Quantum Leap happened and I got to live in a tiny trailer next to a trick seal, I wouldn’t complain.

     Which is why, in my spare time, I have frequently devoted myself to learning some sort of carnie sport.  I watched jugglers, bought scarves, and tried teaching myself. Not good.  I watched unicyclists, got a unicycle, and tried teaching myself. Really not good.  I’m not too bad at tightrope, and while I’ve never had a tiger to train, I think I’d manage. When aerial dance came on the scene, I knew I wanted to try that, too.

     A relatively new art form, aerial dance (sometimes referred to as aerial tissu or aerial silks) is a form of movement that involves climbing and posing your body on fabric that is suspended from the ceiling.  It was developed by Montreal’s peerless Cirque du Soleil in the mid-nineties as a means of exploring dance and contortion without the limitation of gravity.

     The first opportunity I had to play with them was at SETC in Chattanooga, TN.  Not being known for my patience, I immediately spoke with the director about taking lessons and asked her how she got her start.  Her answer?  “I saw them in the circus, so I bought some fabric and taught myself.”  We got along pretty well.

Aerial Silks

First lesson back in the day! Whee!

     Last year, when we were choosing our 2013-2014 season, our Artistic Director had only one criteria for each show.  Every production had to include some element that we, as a theatre, had never used before.  After settling on Tarzan and Shrek as our Main Stage shows, we decided to make Tarzan vertical.  Utilizing the silks as vines and climbing nets as the jungle canopy, we took our show to new heights, and I fell in love with the aerial arts all over again.     tarzan1  jenntarzan

     Less than a year later, our new aerial program has grown beyond our expectations!  We have a Friday class that, truthfully, is the highlight of my week, and I have many students of all ages (10 to 55) who take private lessons.  Soon, we hope to get a lyra (aerial hoop) as well!

     So what kind of person does aerial arts?  Anyone.  My group class (ages 10-18) includes a 5th-grade gymnast and an 11th-grade baritone.  In my private lessons I have taught a massage therapist, a news anchor, and a fitness instructor, among others.  The one thing all of these people have in common is their desire to experience something new.

annasilks1  weeksonsilks1

     Of course, like any physical activity, there are some requirements.  The rig does have a weight limit, and since you are binding your body with fabric you want to make sure you are in good health, with no prone to dizziness, circulatory disorders or severe skin conditions.  A fear of heights could be a potential setback, but as these things go, our rig is pretty low with a maximum ceiling height of fifteen feet.

   This year, we’ll be using our silks in two different dance shows.  The first is the student-choreographed Jack and the Beanstalk in February, and the second is our annual dance showcase in May.  The theme for 2015 is Dance Around the World, featuring dance styles from all over the globe.

   Never has Canada been so cool.

silksduet1

                                            Anna Smith & Matthew Weeks, SCT Aerial Students

What SCT Has Given Me, by Jason Rigsbee

     While many people “find” themselves in the theatre, growing up I avoided anything that required me to perform in front of others.  I was always comfortable speaking in class, playing sports and taking on leadership roles in school and college.  There was something, however, about performing as a character that I found uncomfortable.

     As fortune would have it, I met my wife while in college and you guessed it, she was a theatre person.  She had grown up her whole life performing and singing.  She was so passionate about her experiences and how it had shaped her life.  Little by little I learned more and more.  Fast forward and I now have three daughters, 9, 7 and 4.  It is no surprise, but each one loves to perform and as each has come of age, gravitated towards the Savannah Children’s Theatre.

     When my first daughter auditioned for Little Women, I really had no idea what to expect.  We showed up as a family and as we waited in the lobby, I looked around at all of the kids and families and was truly amazed.  There were groups who clearly had been in the theatre and knew each other and there were those that it was their first time; what amazed me most was the diversity within the group and how welcoming everyone was.  When we got the call she was in the show, the excitement on my daughter’s face told the whole story.  Life was about to change for my family.

     Now as the shows have continued and my second daughter will appear in her first show this year, I have learned a few things about myself and my family.  First, the theatre is a second family where anyone can find true friends and a support system beyond your hopes.  It does not matter your age, your ability or who you are, it only matters that you are family.  In a world where you worry what your child will face, this brings amazing comfort and joy as a parent.

     Secondly, even as a “non-theatre person” there is a place for you.  During the first show, I hung out in the lobby during rehearsals and I had the chance to meet some great people and form relationships, but also realized how many ways you can volunteer and interact to support the kids and theatre.  I now regularly work concession for shows, help clean up after shows when I can and the list goes on with all of the things you can do behind the scenes.  I have found incredible joy in doing little things that support such a great experience for kids.

     Lastly, my family has grown closer, crazier and happier through our two plus years at the theatre.  Everyone sings the songs leading up to the show (watch out the radio gets taken over by the musical CD for a show months at a time), looks forward to rehearsals, even if it is just to drop someone else off and celebrates the family member on stage.  The feeling is overwhelming when you have another child turn to you during the show and say her sister was so amazing, even if she said a line or not.

     So from a father’s perspective, I can only say my life would not be what is without the theatre (never thought I would say that!).  Before the theatre I had no idea what I was missing.  Now with the theatre, I cannot imagine a time where it will not be an integral part of my family’s life.  Maybe one day I will take the plunge (my family bugs me all the time), but for now concessions is cool for me!  On October 10th I’ll get to pop the popcorn and then take my seat with my wife and youngest daughter, and I’ll enjoy the smile that lights up her face as she watches her sisters perform in Goodnight Moon the Musical.  Surely, it will be a good night.

Costume Land! by Bonnie Juengert

     Trying on costumes is one of the most exciting parts of being in a show! Adults and children of all ages revel in the transformation that occurs when you put on that costume and become another character. Let me introduce you to the world of costumes at SCT.

One of three complete walls of double-hung costumes.

One of four walls completely covered by costumes!

     You may or may not know that most of the second floor of our building is dedicated to the construction and storage of costumes. We are very proud of our ever-growing collection of costumes, some donated, but most made right here in our shop! From three-piece suits to bunny suits, you’ll find just about everything you can think of in Costume Land, even a few things that defy explanation.

We're here for you, for all your scary clown needs.

Yeah…we’re not sure either.

     You also may or may not know that the entire costume process, from design to implementation to laundry, is run by volunteers. We are always looking for help! Knowing how to sew is a big plus, but you can help even if you don’t know how. Painting, hot gluing, beading, paper mâché, and many other crafty talents are needed, oh yes, and don’t forget cutting; both scissor and rotary skills! If you don’t feel comfortable cutting into cloth, we are also in need of assistance with our costume rental program. Sometimes we just need a team of people willing to sort and fold fabrics by color, or people who can help put every piece in the right place. 

A few of our round racks, filled to overflowing!

A few of our round racks, filled to overflowing!

     Consider joining us this season. Along with the thrill of creating part of the magic of the performance, you will not regret the camaraderie that develops over the course of a show, or many shows! While sewing and sorting, we laugh and talk, swap stories about our children and the tales they tell of late-night rehearsals. I have made life-long friends in Costume Land, and I hope to make many more.

     In just a few weeks we will be starting a volunteer project to organize and sort our growing costume stock. To prepare for this undertaking, we’re looking for a few items:

  • Hangers – all shapes and sizes (some department stores, like JC Penney, actually give them away!)
  • Clear Plastic Storage Bins – shoebox size or larger, with lids
  • Quality Safety Pins

      How do you get involved? Make sure you’re following SCT’s Facebook page for updates, and contact the office for a schedule of when our costume volunteers will be working. We’d love to see some new faces and welcome new ideas. See you soon!

Once Upon a Mattress, by Maggie Lee Hart

     How fitting that The Savannah Children’s Theatre makes fairy tales come true, as we embark upon our Creative Dramatics II class production of Once Upon A Mattress, Jr!  Princess Winnefred’s main desire is to find her “Happily Ever After” and claim a prince who will love and accept her with all her perfect imperfections!  Along with a haughty Queen and a mute King, this musical was based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale The Princess and the Pea.

     Co-Directors, Mr. Christopher Blair and I, agreed to begin this session a little differently because of one notoriously comedic, red headed woman.  She made her Broadway debut as Princess Winnefred in 1959 and, thankfully, archives of her performance can be found online.  She also reappeared as Queen Aggravain in the 2005 TV Movie.  Who is this woman?

carolburnett

1974 Broadway production of “Once Upon a Mattress.” Music by Mary Rogers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, Book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller & Marshall Barer.

     Why, the one and only, Carol Burnett, of course!  Her universal comedic timing still speaks to us, and spoke to the students as well.  By watching specific archived scenes and dance numbers, the students were able to understand the style of the production, along with the exaggerated emotion and physical mannerisms within each character.  The writing is witty with sharp remarks and quick comebacks. Physically, the show is very demanding, replete with dance numbers and physical comedy.  The Spanish Panic, which was the choice for our dance audition, is full of vigor and fun.  With a very upbeat tempo, the students have found joy in partner work, and the importance of breath support!

Our own Larken & Sir Harry!

Our own Larken & Sir Harry!

     While we have thoroughly enjoyed researching and exploring our characters, we have also found great benefit in utilizing SCT’s dance floor to observe our posture and dance formations.  The ability to view the full body while dancing is crucial in creating a look that lends towards the time period of this production.  The ladies are encouraged to extend their necks while walking in a smooth and proper manner, and the gentleman are encouraged to be “on-guard” with a strong stance showing their calf muscles and upper body strength.  This is a lot of fun for our girls-cast-as-boys to explore a more masculine demeanor within themselves.  Our boys are always outnumbered by our girls, but everyone seems to embrace this fact with enthusiasm and acceptance.

Don't be fooled! The young ladies you see on the right (stage left) are acting as Knights!

Don’t be fooled! The young ladies you see on the right (stage left) are acting as Knights!

     As is with all productions with SCT, it is imagination and creativity that brings these shows to life.  SCT productions build their success by all the volunteers, staff and encouraging parents who have given their children the opportunity to explore the art of theatre.  Thank you for all that you do in supporting our theatre.  This is a class show surely not to miss!

mattress3

     “Once Upon a Mattress, Jr.” opens Friday, May 9th at 7:00pm ,with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3:00pm. Click here for tickets! 

Opening Night!!!, by Laura Keena

  TARZAN.
This show.
_________THIS show.
     As improbable as it may seem, it’s not very often that you get to work on a show with which you are entirely unfamiliar.  This has been one of those experiences!  I can honestly say, working and rehearsing this show has been a challenge and a delight.  I cannot say enough how inspired and privileged I feel to be a part of this stellar group.  All aspects of the performance are firing on all cylinders: set, costumes, choreography, direction.
     Since we came back from the winter break we have been in Tarzan overdrive.  Adding elements of the set such as aerial silks, bungees, and rope walls to name a few.  The cast is totally rising to the challenge!!  I will specifically say that we have quite a few younger cast members among us, and they are kicking butt on that rope wall…trust me…it’s harder than it looks!!!
     On a more serious note, I didn’t know how touching this show could be.  I didn’t know how beautiful and universal the message of Tarzan’s story could be. I  didn’t know that songs from the show would make me laugh, smile, or tear up, rehearsal after rehearsal.  The message of this show is a timeless one: Family.  I encourage everyone to not only come to the show, but to invite a friend or a loved one to experience it with you.  It’s going to be one that will keep you thinking for a while.
     I thought about posting some pictures with this post, but I have to say, I don’t want to ruin the surprise!  Come see this show!!  (Insert whacky ape-man yell here.)

Read, Set, FIELD TRIP! by Carmel Grace Cowart

100 excited children
5 talented instructors
2 fun-filled hours
1 hilarious script
Too many silly hats to count
=
1 Unforgettable Theatre Experience
(No one ever said actors were good at math.)
Cheri Hester, Chris Blair, Carmel Cowart, Laura Keena...just a few members of our amazing field trip team!
Cheri Hester, Chris Blair, Carmel Cowart, Laura Keena…
…just a few members of our amazing field trip team!

A Day in the Life of an SCT Field Trip Instructor

8:30am – The SCT field trip staff arrive at the theatre to prepare for the day’s show.  We gather props and costumes, mend broken bunny ears or create new bug hats if need be, review notes and choreography, all whilst sipping our coffee.  Each of our 27 curriculum-based musicals has at least 8 songs and dances to be learned, smart and funny dialogue to memorize (“Sedimentary, my dear, Watson”), plus separate props and costume pieces to prepare for each number.  I’m not sure if anyone has done an official count, but I’d guess that we have over 5,000 hats and props in our field trip storage area!

10:00am – We activate Field Trip Mode, a unique mode that requires the utmost creativity, the ability to think on your feet at lightning speed, the flexibility to go with the flow of a kindergartner or the reticence of a 6th grader, a big smile, and lots of heart!  The schoolchildren and teachers are buzzing with excitement as they enter the building.  The students are divided into smaller groups, and each group follows an instructor to a designated rehearsal space. For many students, especially those from rural areas or Title I schools, this is the first live theatre experience they will ever have!  The kids have quite a lot to say upon entering the building.

“Whoa, this place is HUGE!”

“When does the MOVIE start?”

“Are we gonna be on TV?”

“Wait…I think I’ve BEEN HERE before!”

10:15am – This is when the students get to flex their creative muscles!   Each group gets a crash-course in theatre; what it means to be in a play, to rehearse, and to perform in front of a life audience.  They learn their musical numbers and speaking roles, and even get to experience a brief audition.  They work on character development, choreography, lyrics, and try on some of the silliest hats you’ve ever seen in order to “get into character!”

Rehearsing Aesop's fable "The Ant and the Dove" with some sweet bird hats.

Rehearsing Aesop’s fable “The Ant and the Dove” with some sweet bird hats.

     While we rehearse, the teachers get to take a break in our lobby, or head to Starbucks.  (They say their favorite part of our field trip is watching the children perform, but I’m guessing this mid-morning coffee break is a close-second.)  We want the performance to be a surprise!

10:45am – After rehearsal, all student groups meet on SCT’s proscenium stage for a final dress rehearsal.  This gives the students a chance to release any last-minute jitters, and helps them feel more comfortable onstage before their audience (teachers and chaperons) arrives.  This dress run also enables them to understand the fluidity of the entire show, like which group performs first or last, what hat to wear when, and so on.

11:15am – SHOWTIME! This is the moment when the live theatre magic happens!  It’s amazing to watch what children can do with only an hour of prep, especially when it’s the first time that many of them have ever been on a stage!  They sing, they dance, they laugh, they smile, they learn, they teach, they entertain, they inspire!  Whether they’re acting like pirates, princesses, pilgrims, or (in one show) volcanoes with a gas problem,  I am continually tickled by how much FUN these kids have on our stage, and I’m grateful that I get to be a part of it.

The Lion does a victory dance!

The Lion does a victory dance!

12:00pm – The new, young performers all take a well-deserved bow, smiling ear to ear.  Many proud parents and teachers clap and cheer for them, encouraging their brave performances.  We collect all our props and costumes, and we tell them what a wonderful job they did performing.  Now the field trip is over and the students have to go back to school…boo.  As they are exiting, I often get to hear some of the most joyful remarks while they relish in what they just experienced, rather, what they just created.  Here are some of the students’ words from this week:

“This was the BEST day of my WHOLE life!”

“Remember, JAZZ HANDS!”

“That was AWESOME!”

“I wanna perform ALL day, EVERY day!”

“I LOVE this place!”

     Hopefully, these kids will go home with songs to sing and stories to tell.  One child at each field trip will win a free ticket to an upcoming production; right now each class gets to participate in a coloring contest for TARZAN!  We certainly hope that many more of them will be bitten by the acting bug and visit us again in the future.

     If you’ve never experienced a SCT field trip before, you should remedy that ASAP!  If you’re a teacher and would like to bring your grade level, send us an email, or call (912) 238-9015.  If you’re a parent, tell your child’s teacher about SCT , and please encourage them to contact us!  More field trip info can be found on our website. Come and put on a play with us! 

Field trippingly,

Carmel Grace Cowart

Putting it Together, by David I.L. Poole

 (Read the first part of my design process here!)

      So did my design of the ape costume meet approval?  Yes, it did!  Artistic Director Kelie Miley loved it!

     The next phase of design is the actual implementation, which is where things can become a little tricky.  Transferring the costume from a drawing to the finished product is a process called “draping.”  Draping is a method of dressmaking in which fabric is pinned and hung on a mannequin form in order to create a pattern.  This is usually done with inexpensive fabric, like muslin, so there is no real loss if a mistake occurs.  This process is done with much trial and error, and there may be many drapings depending on the complexities of the garment.  Once a pattern is determined from the draping, then more expensive materials can be cut and sewn into a finished costume.

Draping and pinning one of 28 ape costumes!

Draping and pinning one of 28 ape costumes!

      One of the exciting materials being used is coming all the way from Hawaii!  We ordered traditional Tahitian bark skirts in a variety of colors.  These will be deconstructed and sewn onto the edges of the ape costumes to give a full fur look without it using actual fur, which is very expensive, heavy, and difficult to maintain.   The Tahitian bark will be used on principal characters, while we are using raffia that has been painted and dyed to costume members of the ape ensemble.  With 28 apes to costume, we aren’t just talking about small quantities here; we’re talking loads and loads of material!

A sea of raffia!

A sea of raffia, divided into baskets for each performer.

     After settling on the designs for the apes, the director also asked that I design tropical flower costumes that could bloom on stage, and a hybrid butterfly/puppet costume for some of the featured dancers.  I love these opportunities to create fantastical creatures!  That is why I love to volunteer at the Savannah Children’s Theatre where I have a place to let my imagination soar.

     Thanks to our army of volunteers, including Karen Clark, Pam Edenfield, Chann Givens,  Bonnie Juengert, and Marcia Karp, we are making quick progress.  Main Stage productions are a team effort, and our volunteers are the best in town!  We talk and laugh, sew and hot glue.  Spending time with these creative, talented minds makes the work go by so quickly.

     If you haven’t reserved your seats yet for TARZAN, do it now! Tickets are available on our website, or by calling the box office at 912.238.9015.  The next post you’ll see from me will show the finished product.  But trust me, you’ll want to see it on stage and in action!