Coming Home, by Laura Keena

     I am so glad to be home!

     I am also glad to say that working here at Savannah Children’s Theatre is one of the reasons why.  I loved growing up here in this enchanting place and, like so many of us, my life was forever changed after auditioning for a Kelie Miley production (Peter Pan, to be specific).  After that summer in **cough cough** it was all over!  The theatre bug had seriously bitten me, and I was forever to be a lost boy.  A theatre kid to the bitter end!

     In high school I knew that I wanted to leave Savannah (isn’t that what everyone wants in high school?), and I did.  I went to college in Washington DC, home to a surprisingly vibrant and thriving theatre community.  I studied in London and New York.  I worked in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, anywhere that would allow me to do what I loved!  For a long time Savannah was behind me.  Not forgotten, but not in focus.

     I think of our recent graduates, some of whom are now in their first year away from home, and I remember that bittersweet time in my own life.  Simultaneously loving being away from home, meeting new people and learning so many new things, but also being surprised by how deeply I missed my home.  I’d go about my days, happy to be out on my own, until a sudden craving for my dad’s homemade spaghetti sauce (affectionately known in my house as “the nectar of the gods”) would hit me in the gut.  I was a strong, independent, career-oriented woman…until I came down with the sniffles.  Nothing says “you’re an adult now” quite like buying your own Kleenex and cold medicine.  Eventually, you find your way and you build your home wherever you are, and a while after I left, Savannah stopped feeling like my absolute home.  Until this year.

     Since I moved back in January, I have had the honor and pleasure of working alongside my best friend, my first director, and countless former cast mates.  Like everyone else who works at Savannah Children’s Theatre, I think it best to say that I wear many hats.  Since starting to work here I have been challenged and inspired daily, and it’s only been nine months!  One day Assistant Music Directing 42nd Street, the next Stage Managing Charlotte’s Web, another day rehearsing Jane in our upcoming production of Tarzan, and starting today, Directing And Then There Were None for our burgeoning Teen Theatre class.  I am so glad to be home, doing what I love with the people I love, and being a part of this wonderful arts community!

     So for those of you recently gone, or for those of you preparing to go, know in advance that it’s going to be hard.  And know in advance that it does get easier.  And know that, sometimes, you can go home again. 

What Color is Your Glitter? by Georgette Ford

     Six years ago my children and I walked through the doors of the Savannah Children’s Theatre to audition for the 2007 production of Charlotte’s Web.  I knew we had walked into something special, something vibrant, and something so alive.  What I heard was that this was a community theatre, a place where the community was encouraged to be involved.  There were numerous volunteer opportunities given to me; they all sounded so interesting I didn’t know which one to pick first!

      Turns out I didn’t have to pick an activity, it picked me.  One day, a fabulously creative volunteer mom who was glittering letters for a window display asked for my help. I dove right in; I loved working with purple glitter.  Who knew there were so many colors of glitter?!  When I saw the finished product hanging in one of the SCT windows I was blown away by how creative people can be. I knew I was involved in something big.  I also knew that my pitifully glittered letters meant that I should try to find another area to apply my volunteer expertise.  Leaving the windows in the hands of Heather Kingery, Suzanne Findley, Renee McMahon, Lisa James and Rhonda Davis was definitely the way to go.  In the meantime I swept the theatre, cleaned the bathrooms, and vacuumed.

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A few beautiful window displays, designed and crafted by
volunteers!

     I didn’t have to wait too long before another volunteer parent quickly had me hanging up costumes.  I hung up costumes for weeks.  I then started gathering and asking for hanger donations.  Acquiring a costume rack was like discovering gold!  A parent dropping off a bag of hangers made us do a happy dance!  As more parents jumped into their passion with the costumes I watched piles of costumes on the floor turn into a full-fledged costume shop upstairs, complete with a sewing area, rental department and thousands of costumes.  Volunteers like Celeste Cobb, Terri Sparks, Becky Keith, Patty Paul, Beth Ballance, Janet Wagner, Chann Givens, Renee McMahon, Bonnie Juengert, David Poole, Pam Edenfield, Michelle McRorie and countless others, worked at making SCT’s costume department one of the most amazing volunteer community projects I have ever seen.  

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Can you believe that each and every one of these costumes was designed, sewn and fitted by volunteers?!

     I decided after burning myself on a hot glue gun and never really achieving sewing on a button correctly, that my passion for SCT could be found somewhere else.  There was always sweeping, cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming.  If only one of the donated vacuums would last longer than a month!

     So I decided to help with concessions.  It seemed to me that the concessions area was run by top CEO’s.  There was cleaning, ordering and inventory of popcorn, meeting delivery trucks coming from Jacksonville that sometimes couldn’t make it all the way to SCT, fundraising for the purchase of a second popcorn machine, wishing for a donation of cash registers, finding materials and building a new concession area.  The work load was so great, I was positive these people got paid to do what they did. Turns out they just had a passion for SCT. They knew they were in a place that was larger than themselves, a place that had a huge heart, and a place that did wonderful things for families.  I left the executives with the big hearts; Vivian Willis, Marty and Caroline Scott, Ruth Sales, Christina and Terry Edwards, Bettie and Cary Negley, Allison Cole, and kept cleaning the theatre and organizing costumes.

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My family, in front of one of SCT’s two concession stands, built and managed by…volunteers!

    My next adventure was volunteering on the tech crew.  I was able to be part of the magic of the show along with my children and I loved it.  Dressed all in black, I was able to run on stage between scenes in a black out and change the sets.  This was thrilling and exhilarating being so connected to the show!  Backstage I was involved with the children, kissing boo-boos, getting band-aids, getting water for sweaty, thirsty dancers, hugging excited performers who feel they nailed their scenes, and wiping away tears of young actors who felt they messed up their lines or didn’t go on when they were supposed to.  As time went on, my volunteer exploits grew from working tech, to painting sets, gathering props, even running the spot light and the light board.

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You can’t see me, but I was behind that dog house, pushing the actors back on course when their toy cars went astray!

    I can’t count the amount of times I was overcome with emotions while watching the amazing things that happen on stage.  I may have been giving volunteer hours, but I was getting so much more in return.   I learned so much working tech with Mike & April Prow, Vann Doubleday, Carrie Negley, Stewart and Danielle Pinkerton, Al & Cindy Williams, Mark Padgett, Cynthia Holmen, Eric Mitchell, Troy and Lee Brantley.  SCT’s heart could be found in all of these people and it was an honor to volunteer with them. I was still sweeping, cleaning bathrooms, and YES, it was a glorious day when Fred Miley donated a Dyson vacuum!  Then a lovely parent volunteered to pay for a part time cleaning person to help clean the theatre!  The building is in top shape now, thanks to Josh Riggs. (I wish I had some pictures to post of these amazing people hard at work behind the scenes, but that’s the tricky thing about techies. They’re behind the scenes because they don’t like being in the spotlight.)

     After my experience on the tech crew, there was nothing stopping my volunteer passion.  There were fundraising meetings, phone calls, letter writing, sponsor searches, and annual Gala meetings to attend. I made SCT brochures, and flyers, and with the help of Cheryl Lauer, took them all over town selling ads to businesses.  We gathered families and participated in the downtown Christmas parade, and the annual Children’s Book Festival.  We had to spread the word about this amazing little gem in the community!  I wanted people to know about the heart and soul of SCT, how I have watched it shape children and change my family’s lives for the better.  Savannah needs to know what a treasure they have in SCT.  Savannah also needs to know that SCT will only survive through community support, donations and volunteerism.

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The annual Christmas Parade on River Street, with a trolley full of SCT volunteers spreading their joy!

     I now have the most amazing job as the Office Manager of SCT.  I am surrounded by some of the most creative people in the world.  I have learned so much from Kelie Miley, Jenn Doubleday, Cynthia Holmen, Keena Charbonneau, and the rest of the amazing staff that have touched the lives of this community.  I get to watch children blossom and grow into amazing, confident young adults, all because of the dedication to joy and character building that exists within these walls.  I would like to encourage you to come find a place to share your creative side, your technical side, your administrative side here at SCT.  Come and show us your favorite color glitter…

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