We’re a Trip, by Tim Reynolds

     Even though a swan glides across the water, beneath the surface, it’s legs are pumping.  A lot of hard work and effort goes into each field trip that we host at Savannah Children’s Theatre because we want to ensure that our students have the best experience possible.  But it’s not just dancing and silly hat wearing, even though that’s important.  Here’s a quick peek into one of our field trips, from start to finish.

my office

My Office

     Schools usually book far in advance, scheduling their field trips months ahead of time to ensure that the musical they pick aligns perfectly with subjects they are teaching.  When we arrive for the day, we already know what show we’re doing, what props and costumes need to be pulled from storage, what roles need to be cast, how many scripts to grab…and this is with the first cup of coffee.  Roles and songs are divided up and assigned ahead of time so that each instructor has the chance to learn the material, devise their own choreography, and understand how it relates to the school curriculum.
we do what we can

Ms. Laura, Ms. Cheri, Ms. Lauren

     Ms Cheri, our Field Trip Coordinator, does a great job keeping everything on track!  We make sure that everything is set just the way each school requests, and we always accommodate any special needs that individual students may have.  While we try to cast the kids in as many speaking roles as we can, wordier parts are still performed by us, the *ahem* professionals.
     Of course, no musical is complete without costuming!  Hats are quite important to us, as they help our young actors to visualize the characters they are portraying.  We have a wide variety for nearly any occasion, including:
TimSillyHat– cowboy hats
– berets
– baseball caps
– compost hats
– disco hats
– skunk hats
– flower petal hats
– Jupiter hats…what’s that?  You’ll have to come to find out.
     When the kids arrive, it’s go time!  School groups range in size from 15 students to 125 students, depending on the day.  The children are quickly divided among the SCT Team so we can work with them in smaller groups.  Together, they learn to dance and to sing as loudly as they can about American History, Earth Science, Shakespeare or other subjects.  Sometimes there are so many kids, the classes are spread out all over the theatre; some are on the proscenium stage…
mainstage
others are in the smaller black box theatre…
blackbox
or on the dance floor…
dance floor
…really anywhere there is room!  When it’s almost show time, we gather in the proscenium theatre to rehearse one last time before the audience arrives.
     Once the teachers and chaperons assemble (parents, too!), we cue the maestro (that’s Ms. Renee) and the show begins!  We’re singing!  We’re dancing!  We’re learning!  We’re having a blast being silly!  After a performance well-done, the kids take a bow to their adoring fans.  Photos are taken, cheers are given!  Alas, all good things must come to an end.  Back to the buses they go, and we clean the theatre to get ready for our after-school classes.

conked out

     Or we pass out…  whichever comes first!
     (Only 3 of our 9 field trip staff are pictured here…because only 3 were present the day I took these photos! Our full staff includes Cheri Hester, Laura Keena, Lauren Baxter, Gloria Rigsbee, Evan Goetz, Cason Richter, Mary Caitlin McMahon, Justin Reynolds, and of course, Yours Truly.)
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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!

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!

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.

dancewindowtoadwindowvillagewindow

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa 
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.  

SCTSeussical1

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.

Bonsignoris

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.

dogsincars

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.

christmasparade

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…

 staffphoto2013

A Roarin’ Great Cause! by Renee McMahon

     As our Great Gatsby Gala & Auction has approached, I have repeatedly been asked the same two questions. I’ll address those questions here in hopes that the answers will encourage a few more locals to attend this weekend!

gatsby

     First of all, the ladies all want to know what to wear. Yes, costumes are encouraged at the Great Gatsby Gala, and for some that will translate into full flapper dress and a bob wig! But don’t worry if you don’t have a fringed ensemble hanging in your closet; here are a few simple tricks to give you that 20’s look without renting something or raiding the SCT costume closet!

     Start with a loose-fitting dress that hangs straight and add a long strand of beads or pearls. If your hair is long, you can pin it up and top it with a cloche hat or a headband with a jeweled pin attached at the side. Voila! You are ready to hit the Speakeasy!

20swomen

     Men can dress in a 3-piece suit and fedora, or they can roll up their sleeves, throw on some suspenders or a vest, and top it with a newsboy cap. Just don’t let costume anxiety keep you away from the most fun social event of the year!

1920smen

     Secondly, everyone wants to know what fabulous items will be up for bid at the auction. I recently spent some time with LeeAnn Kole, our Auction Chair, and she shared with me the list of treasures that will be available this weekend at the live and silent auction.  There is definitely something for everyone, and as anyone who has attended in the past will attest, there are bargains to be had! Here is just a sampling of what you can expect to see this Saturday night.

  •  Motorcycle Rental provided by Harley Davidson Savannah

    seadawg

    The Sea Dawg

  • Motorcycle Rental provided by Harley Davidson Savannah
  • Magic Marc Birthday Party at SCT including a $25 Cake Certificate
  • Sailing for 2 including a Gourmet Lunch
  • Downtown Carriage House Stay
  • Gulfstream Simulator Ride
  • 4-hour Sunset Cruise for 8 aboard the Sea Dawg including heavy Hors d’ oeuvres and Cocktails
  • LASIK Eye Surgery by Dr. Miller
  • 2 Night Stay in a Tybee Cottage
  • Autographed Sports Memorabilia, including a Kris Medlen baseball and a Cam Newton football

    In addition, there will be a variety of gift certificates from area restaurants, hair salons and nail salons as well as beauty products and services including the following:

Gulfstream Simulator Training

Gulfstream Simulator Training

  •  The Old Pink House
  • 700 Drayton at The Mansion
  • Crystal Beer Parlor
  • Six Pence Pub
  • Studio Skin Deep
  • Nails by Laura
  • B Street Salon
  • Microdermabrasion by Toni McCullough, MD
  • Acupuncture by Heal Acupuncture
  • Teeth Whitening by Dr. Fruit
Aerial Silks

Aerial Silks

  • Aerial Silk Lessons with Jenn Doubleday
  • Aerial Silk Lessons with Jenn Doubleday
  • Voice lessons with Don Hite Productions
  • Tennis Lesson with Ivor Savage
  • Life Coaching Session of Psych-K
  • Ballroom Dance Lessons with Jenn Doubleday and Richie Cook
  • Voice lessons with Mary-E Godfrey

     Plus we have tickets to local events, gift baskets, several downtown staycations, artwork by local artists, jewelry for every budget, children’s books and toys, and so much more!

     Now you know what to wear and what to expect. All that is left to do is purchase your tickets and party like it’s 1922! I hope to see all of you “Ragtime Gals” and “Old Sports” this Saturday night at B. Tillman!

Behind the Web, by Carmel Cowart

Terrific! Radiant! Humble! Some Pig!

charlotteswebposter

     That’s right folks, Charlotte’s Web opens this Friday, October 18th! In honor of tech week (that’s what we call the last week before the show opens), I thought it’d be nice to give you a closer look at all of the preparation that goes into producing a show like this one. Step “behind the web” with me to see a few of the projects we’ve been working on after-hours!

     When most people think about musical theatre, rehearsals and opening nights are what come to mind. However, there is SO MUCH MORE that happens outside of rehearsal in order to get a show fully ready for an audience. Before that opening curtain, all the “t”s must be crossed and all the “i”s must be dotted; and in Wilbur & Charlotte’s story, there are a LOT of “t”s and “i”s! (Take the word “terrific”, for example!)

barn2

___As the Production Assistant for Charlotte’s Web, my main focus for the last two weeks has been preparing the set by painting and decorating the world in which the Zuckermans and their famous animals will live. To give you an inside look at how many hands it takes to bring a wonderful show together, I’ll share with you the simple events of just one afternoon.

     Yesterday, as I painted the Zuckerman’s barn, our Technical Directors, Mike and April Prow, came in to create one of the two intricate (and very cool!) spider webs in the show. Once the barn was dry, Mike started hanging the rope web that he made himself, and I began crafting the web words…an interesting project, to say the least! I used garden wire to shape each letter, then spray painted them white to match the web. I’d like to tell you that I made the letters perfectly on my first try. In reality, I’ve had to recreate each word three times to get just the right look!

      After the letters were painted, the Director, Kelie Miley, asked me to glitter the web words so that they would “sparkle like morning dew.” On my way upstairs to obtain said glitter, I passed Bonnie Juengert, Board Member and Costume Volunteer Extraordinaire, as she was putting the final stitches on the Little Lamb’s costume. With glitter in hand, I made my way back downstairs through the workshop, and observed Eric Mitchell, our Carpenter, as he was building a ticket booth for the fair scene in Act Two. I then ran into our Stage Manager, Laura Keena, who was busy shaping the fabric used to make Charlotte’s egg sac.

20131015_151212

     Once the web words were glittered and finished, I returned to painting another set piece. While working, I couldn’t help but think to myself, what a talented team! It’s rather amazing to think about how much detail it takes to pull together a production like this one. Over the course of one afternoon, there were many theatre artists scattered throughout the building, each creating something specific for our show. On opening night, all of these beautiful creations will be woven together to help the cast and crew share an inspiring story with the audience.

     From the costumes to the scenery, the lighting to the sound, each element will help bring E.B. White’s treasured words to life before an audience of young theatre-goers. This may be the first play that some of these children will ever see! We want to make sure that all of the details, all those little “t”s and “i”s, are just right so they can have the most amazing experience possible. The volunteers and artists who make all of this possible are terrific, radiant, and humble, indeed!

     Be sure to come see all the web-spinning details this weekend and next at SCT!
Performances are October 18 & 25 at 7pm, and October 19, 20, 26 & 27 at 3pm.
Tickets are $12 for children (1-19), students, seniors, and military, or $15 for adults. 

Getting the Right Fit, by David I.L. Poole

     I recently took on the task of designing some of the costumes for SCT’s upcoming Main Stage production of Disney’s Tarzan. This blog will share a little insight into this exciting process!

     When designing costumes for a production there are three main factors that I consider:

1) The actors limitations; i.e., in Tarzan they will be partaking in extensive acrobat movement

2) The shape and structure of the time period or animal that I am to design

3) The feeling that the director wants for the show

     In Tarzan I am working primarily on the ape costumes.  So how do I begin?

     First, I begin by having a conversation with Artistic Director , Kelie Miley, and we discuss the project and what she envisions.  I love collaboration and the theatre is a perfect place for it! In our discussion on this production, Kelie’s requests for the ape costumes were that they be made of natural materials, reference tribal culture, and of course, that they be kept to a reasonable budget.

     With this information in hand, I began to immerse myself into the world of the play by gathering all kinds of design references and materials; things like pictures of gorillas, tribal patterns from the Congo, or pieces of natural materials like raffia, leather, and rope. I sit with these materials, organize them, and think about them. I let my imagination soar. This is one of the main reasons I volunteer at the Savannah Children’s Theatre; where else do I get to design and build animals, fantastic creatures, and magical beings and to let my imagination take over?  At this point I might also do a few quick sketches of costumes to make all these references, shapes, and materials come together.

     Then I go through what I like to call an “incubation period” in which I walk away from the project, like putting it on a back burner. I might begin or work on another project as long as I get away from the current one. The period of time depends on production schedule and how fast the turnover from sketch to costume has to occur.  Sometime it is a few months, sometimes this is a day or so.  What this achieves for me is time for my ideas to “incubate” and when I return I can see the project and materials with fresh eyes. At this point I narrow down all the ideas and try to come up with a composite rendering.

     So here is what I came up with for the apes.

Ape Design by David I.L. Poole for Savannah Children's Theatre, October 14, 2013

         Ape Design by David I.L. Poole for Savannah Children’s Theatre, October 14, 2013

 

Next, I await approval of the final rendering. This is when, if there is anything that the director does not like, we can change it.  We gather the actors and start to take measurements to assure the right fit.

     Will this first design meet Kelie’s approval, or will it need to be changed? Stay tuned! I’ll be keeping you up-to-date about our progress throughout the 15 weeks leading up to this amazing new show. You’ll get to see how our costumes are created, from start to finish. Feel free to comment if you have any questions about the process. Until then, I’ll be sketching and sewing!