DARE to BE

There’s this great phrase that our Artistic Director, Kelie Miley, uses in rehearsals. And in greenroom circles. And sometimes in staff meetings. For decades I have listened to this phrase, and for decades it has bolstered my courage. Now, as a teacher, I repeat it to my students on the regular. The phrase is simply:

DARE TO BE BAD

     That’s it. In all that we do, in all that we say, I think that’s just about the most important bit of wisdom we have to offer. Dare to be bad. So much of theatre is stepping outside of your comfort zone, but if we’re going to reach those heartstrings or hear those belly laughs or hit those high C’s, we all have to do something a little bit daring.

Every moment of live theatre has a 50% chance of being successful. The joke will land, or it won’t. The magic trick will fire, or it won’t. Toto will climb into Dorothy’s basket, or he’ll pee on the side of it. You never know. Every moment is happening live, and there are no second takes.

So why am I telling you this? Because this is the time of year that we need the most daring support from adults. When autumn rears it’s ugly back-to-school head, we charge in with our Masquerade Gala & Auction, and auditions for our Main Stage Musical.  Both events require adults to make the magic happen, and both events make grown ups shrug and say “gee, I just don’t know if I can.”

To that shrug, I say DARE TO BE BAD. You might sing off-key at your audition, but you also might be really great and have the opportunity to perform alongside your kids. You might share in a fun, intimate experience like nothing else imaginable. You might get out-bid on this year’s Low Country Boil, but you also might get invited to attend the next one, where theatre moms and dads all shell shrimp while lip-syncing to Hamilton, and the kids cover their faces in embarrassment. (Is it just me, or does that sound like the best party EVER?)

Yes, our name is Savannah Children’s Theatreand the children are our everything. We can be a place where you drop off your kids for a few hours after school, and we can be a sends them home happy and tired. We would rather be a family meeting place; a place where kids can learn and grown their talents while seeing their parents thriving in a new, creative light. Dads can wield hot glue guns and learn a soft-shoe dance right alongside their sons, and moms can paint scenery and sing harmonies with their daughters. Grandparents can volunteer at the concession stand, and your crazy aunt (you know you have one) can help solicit donations. You can lend us your time and talents, and you can share your financial resources with a local non-profit that is dedicated to building up and equipping the youth in this very community. 

We are here to serve the children. But if we are going to serve them well, we are going to need some stalwart goofball adults to step up, and dare to be the leading man, or the second banana, or the committee chair. Dare to be involved in your kids’ extracurricular activities. Dare to know their friends and their teachers. Dare to know their talents. Dare to show them yours. 

So…where to begin? How about auditions tonight at 7pm? How about our biggest fundraiser of the year, The Masquerade Gala & AuctionHow about an email that says “how can I help?” Go ahead. I dare ya. 🙂

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2014 Auction & Gala, by Chris Bass

     This post is supposed to be about the upcoming Gala & Auction, but like all things SCT, it is about so much more than that.  Because in order to tell you why I think it’s so important for you to go to this event, I have to first tell you why I think Savannah Children’s Theatre is so important.  If you want the Cliff’s Notes (do people still read those?) just skip to the bottom for the Gala information, or, you know, click the link for tickets!  If you want the whole story, keep reading.

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2014 Auction & Gala, October 25th at 6:30pm, Knights of Columbus Hall in Downtown Savannah

     Still with me?  Great!

     Five years ago, my wife told me that there was a theatre in town putting on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  Knowing that my wife loved the music, I looked into it and bought tickets to a Saturday night performance at Savannah Children’s Theatre.  I was skeptical because I didn’t know a lot about the theatre and it had been a long time since I had seen a live community performance.  After their amazing performance, all of my skepticism disappeared.  See, I had always dreamed of performing on stage.  Watching that show, I heard a long forgotten voice speaking inside of me.  This cheesy voice of mine said “don’t be afraid to go after your dreams.”

     I enrolled our eight-year-old son in SCT’s after school classes, although theatre wasn’t really his thing.  I also started to listen to that inner voice once again and auditioned for the Winter Main Stage musical Cinderella.  Part of my intention in doing the show was to encourage my son to get up on stage and perform.  It didn’t work quite the way I thought it would.  But wouldn’t you know, our six-year-old daughter couldn’t wait to get up on stage!

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Molly & I in “Shrek”

The following summer, my daughter, Molly, participated in the SCT summer camp Disney’s Aladdin, Jr.  When  I watched her perform, I saw a light come on in her that I recognized in myself and I couldn’t wait until we could perform together.  At that moment, we became part of the SCT family, and when I say “family” I mean just that!  There are few places where you can feel the love and support that is felt at Savannah Children’s Theatre.  It’s an amazing place where I can watch my daughter shine and grow in ways I didn’t know were possible.  I promised myself that if I were to do another show with SCT that I would do a show with my daughter by my side.

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Molly and Abbey Kate in “Goodnight Moon”

That opportunity came when we were both cast in The Music Man, and sharing the stage with my daughter was just as amazing as I’d hoped.  Since seeing that first show at SCT, I have been part of five different productions and Molly has been in a whopping fourteen, including this weekend’s Goodnight Moon the Musical. (Shameless plug, I know. The whole show is great…but that Mouse is really something!)  With every show our family grows closer and that inner voice my daughter and I share grows louder and stronger.  We both have formed friendships and bonds that we will have forever because of this theatre.

     This year, I wanted to find a way to give back to SCT for all that they have given my family.  I decided to chair the 2014 Auction and Gala, which is SCT’s biggest fundraiser of the year.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but with the help of our supportive volunteers and Board of Directors, I believe that this year’s event will be an exciting night for everyone involved.

     In just eleven days, we need everyone who loves Savannah Children’s Theatre to come out and support our Gala!  This year’s event will take place Saturday, October 25th, at the newly renovated Knights of Columbus Hall on 3 West Liberty Street,  Starting at 6:30pm, this elegant evening in Casablanca will feature music from Savannah’s own Trae Gurley, great food, entertainment, and the chance to bid on some amazing items like the ones listed below:

  • Puppy with 1 Year of Complimentary Veterinary Service
  • Oyster Roast for 100
  • Sail Boat Trips (Both Fishing and Non-Fishing Adventures)
  • Wine Tasting for 12
  • Dr. Pearl Cool Sculpt Treatment
  • Sunset Cruise for 8
  • Theatre Tickets
  • Local Restaurant & Business Gift Certificates
  • Much, Much More!

     If you can’t attend the event, please consider making a donation or becoming a member of our Annual Fund.  Your contribution to this amazing organization will not only help children to experience the joy of the performing arts, but it will help families to experience the joy of each other.  SCT is a place that excels in encouraging people to follow their dreams.  The thing is, SCT also helps to make them come true.

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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.

Family Life at SCT, by Gloria Rigsbee

     “Welcome to the Savannah Children’s Theatre!”  are words you hear at the start of each production.  Being welcomed into a place is very common, but being welcomed into a family is a rare occurrence.  When they are spoken at SCT, your entire family is being welcomed into the amazing world of theatre and the family that is housed within their walls.

Taylor with Corbin (Tarzan) and Brandon (Musical Director) at the cast party

Taylor with Corbin (Tarzan) and Brandon (Musical Director) at the cast party

     For us, the theatre bug bit our oldest daughter in April of last year and our family has loved every moment since!   If you take advantage of each moment leading up to opening night, you can really get the entire family involved and excited about the upcoming experience.  It can begin as simply as putting the soundtrack of the show into your CD player and by the time the curtain is up, everyone knows all the words and can sing along (in their head, of course) with the cast or at home in the shower!  In fact, here’s a video of what goes on at my house when we’re all rehearsing for a show!

     When a production is in the works, there is a role for everyone.  At SCT, the roles available go far beyond those of the actors that grace the stage.  There are so many magic makers the audience never sees!   There are always hands needed back stage, sewing costumes, building sets and in the prop room, because a show could not function without an amazing tech crew.  Once the show starts, there are still many ways to get more involved.  You can sell tickets in the box office, help usher guests into the theatre, hand out playbills and work the concession area.  My husband, Jason, is a regular behind the concession counter and has become a pro at making cotton candy!

Taylor and I after opening night of Disney's Tarzan

Taylor and I after opening night of Disney’s Tarzan

     I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the greatest opportunities offered by SCT:  Main Stage productions.  Auditioning for one of these shows gives you the chance to share the stage with your child.  You are also given an inside look at the amazing care and passion put forth by the staff.  My daughter convinced me to audition for Disney’s Tarzan this year, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  Having an opportunity to take part in a show with many talented actors and most importantly, share in the joy and excitement a show brings to my child was a real blessing.

     While I was aware of how connected my daughter felt to the staff at SCT and casts from the shows she has been in, being part of Tarzan reinforced the beauty of her extended family.   Getting involved at the SCT has provided exposure to so many people and great opportunities to learn from and about each other.  My daughter right away found a place where she belonged, but even more importantly, my family found an environment that brought  us closer together and connected us to so many more families, making SCT our second home.

     After watching a show opening night and watching my entire family be as excited as my little actress, I know without a doubt that SCT has done its job.  They certainly live their mission “to inspire, educate and entertain children and families through the experience of live theatre both on and off the stage.”  Without hesitation, the fulfillment of that mission has been seen in my family countless times this year alone.  Now that Tarzan is over, we have moved on to Shrek, which opens May 30th.  I am thrilled to once again share the stage with my daughter, and other truly talented adults and children.  My younger girls are counting the days until they are old enough to audition for a show!  Jason and I have loved that we have all become a part of such a wonderful family.

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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.)

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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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.  

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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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Being a Theatre Mom, by LeeAnn Kole

      Water?  Check.  Snack?  Check.  Dance shoes?  Change of clothes?  Script?  Check, check, check.  I have this down now. I am a theatre mom.

     I have three children, two of whom are in college majoring in…theatre!  Of course, I am a theatre mom, right?

Jeremy's New School vs Amy's Shenandoah Conservatory

Jeremy’s New School vs Amy’s Shenandoah Conservatory

     What has thrown me for a loop is my third child.  We always said Zachary was the perfect audience member; he cheerfully sat through show after show, mostly in the center of the front row, watching Amy and Jeremy dance, sing and act their way through middle and high school.  Sure, he went to Creative Adventures Camp in the early years and then, his first summer he was eligible, went to the “big kids” camp (as he called it) but walked away after that summer, content to be the one in the family who plays sports.

     So why am I suddenly buying dance shoes?  And dance pants?  And watching rehearsal schedules?  Because Zachary has been bitten by the bug…the acting bug.

Zachary in "Disney's Mulan, Jr." this summer at SCT

Zachary in “Disney’s Mulan, Jr.” this summer at SCT

     I have always enjoyed how theatre brought Amy and Jeremy so close. They have spent years going over scripts and roles together, singing musicals from beginning to end on our car trips, sharing their frustrations and joys in the theatre and building bonds that are so strong, even being separated by hundreds of miles because of their different schools, they are still deeply connected.

     After Zachary went to camp this summer at SCT, forced by his “mean mom” due to scheduling issues, he came home in love.  And much to our shock, ready to stay on stage, just like Amy and Jeremy!  This weekend we went to visit Jeremy at school in New York City, and as I watched the interaction between my college freshman and my 7th grader I realized that, yet again, theatre was creating new bonds between these brothers.

     Want to really get Zachary angry?  Ask him if he really wants to act or if he is “just doing this because of the older kids.”  For now, he is quite serious about this interest, and he keeps telling us he is going to college for this.  He is young and has plenty of time to change his mind a million times.  But, just in case, I have not thrown away any of the materials I have from Amy’s and Jeremy’s college audition process and Jeff is never planning on retiring!!!

     And I am very happy to be a theatre mom…still.

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