SMILE! by Maggie Lee Hart

     “A Rollicking Band of Pirates, We” have leaped through the stage doors of SCT and have been skipping to the tunes of this operatic comedy for the last twelve weeks.  These “rollicking” actors consist of middle school students enrolled in our Creative Dramatics II Class, who are now entering Tech Week for Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, Jr!, directed by Mr. Chris Blair and myself.  Mr. Mike and Mrs. April Prow will be our Lighting and Sound Design team, assistance in Set Design by Mr. Eric Mitchell, and assistance with Costuming by the lovely Bonnie Juengert and Renee McMahon.

     So what is tech week?  Tech Week is the last week of rehearsals when all elements of a production come together and the magic of finalizing the show begins.  By the time these technical rehearsals begin, the cast of a production should feel comfortable and secure with the flow and orchestration of their show.  This is an important element, because much of the focus from the Director will be geared towards the technical elements of the production instead of the actors.  It is at this time that we rely on these young actors for patience and concentration.  Mr. Chris, with his ability to move larger set pieces, will be backstage with the students to make sure all is running calmly and quietly, while I will be up at the lighting board behind the sparkly glittered sign that says “SMILE”!  I love this sign because it is a friendly reminder that what we are doing on that stage is a play, and to take it literally, it is just playing!  What fun it is to be able to portray a pirate with a peg leg, or a silly and flexible police officer, or even a maiden who has a fear of water, yet lives on the ocean’s coast.

smile

     One of the highlights I thoroughly enjoy within this week is the time and focus an actor gives towards the choreography and blocking of each moment.  The students are given this opportunity during the long hours of rehearsal to really center in on those 4 W’s; the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, and WHY of their character.  This week leading up to the opening performance holds some of the most exciting moments for the cast.  I look forward to seeing smiling faces on stage, and proud and supportive friends and family of every student on SCT’s stage.  The hard work towards their growth as young performing artists is most definitely something to applaud.  Let’s all and give a “Hurrah” for this coming weekend of performances: November 8th at 7:30pm and November 9th and 10th at 3:00pm! Click here for tickets!

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Translating English…into English, by Christopher Blair

     I think it is very important for actors of all ages to understand exactly what they are saying, be it a foreign language, Shakespearean prose, or 19th Century topsy-turvy English.  I can’t tell you how many adult actors I have worked with who were merely reciting their lines, but truly had no idea what some of the words they were saying meant.
 
     Sometimes when you teach theatre to children, you forget things.  You forget that middle school kids have never lived in a world without a million television channels at their disposal, or cell phones, or personal computers, or even Miley Cyrus.  Cue Mr. Chris looking off into the distance reminiscing about simpler times when he only had 3 channels on the TV, that had a dial to change the channel, a phone with a rotary dial that was bolted to the wall, and a game of Pong that was WAY state of the art.  Oddly enough, the Pong game also used a dial on the paddle to move your bumper.  Dials were big in the ’80s.
 
     No, no!  I promised i wouldn’t make this entry some sappy collection of days gone by.  Now I’ve lost my train of thought.  Ah, there it is!  All aboard!
 
     I’m here to talk about what’s going on today, and the point that I’m trying to make is that sometimes I forget how young these kids really are.  I forget that they’ve only studied English to, at best, an 8th grade level.  Thus, when you give a middle school kid a line like this one:
 “Hold monster!  Ere your pirate caravanseri proceed against our will to wed us all, just remember that we are Wards in Chancery, and father is a Major-General!”  
 
     You get a reaction like this one:
 
katiejamespirates
 
     You are met with a look that suggests what they have just read is Greek, or maybe Martian.  CD2’s fall class musical, The Pirates of Penzance Jr, is full of stuff like this, as well as references to old British etiquette that don’t really make sense to your average 21st century 12-year-old.
 
     As Directors, this gap in understanding presents Miss Maggie and me with some challenges.  We have begun to translate this very English show into…English…with a modern take!
 
     There are a couple of ways we do this.  Sometimes it’s easy.  A term like “you lot” can be translated to “all of you” or our own Southern version, “y’all.”
 
     The other way requires a direct modern reference.  When the young maidens are dipping their bare feet in the ocean and  Frederic bursts onto the scene, they scream, “A man!”  Our young actresses didn’t understand that they had to be frightened and embarrassed by this.  They didn’t understand that showing your bare feet and ankles was simply NOT done in polite company at the time in which the play is set.  At first, all they took away from that knowledge was that girls in the 19th century had it rough.  It didn’t really change their performances much, so we had to give them a modern equivalent to guide their choices.  We asked them what they would do if a boy accidentally walked into the girls bathroom or invaded their slumber party.  Light bulbs started going off above their heads and wonderful new choices started being made.
 
     I live for those light bulbs.  They light my path and make what I do so very rewarding.  Admitting that you don’t understand your own language is a difficult thing to do!  Fortunately, Ms. Maggie and I have a long history with Gilbert & Sullivan’s beautiful writing style, and we are well equipped to guide these new performers.  As the Pirate King says, I wish for our students to “Speak out! I charge you by that sense of conscientiousness to which we have never yet appealed in vain!”  In other words, share with us your insecurities.  We’re really good translators.

Talk Like a Pirate Day, by Christopher Blair

     Ahoy! Avast! En garde! Today, September 19th, is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Ye scalawags.

     When I first heard that Creative Dramatics II was doing Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance this year, I could barely contain my glee!  You see – many, many, many years ago I got to play Frederic in Pirates at Asbury Memorial Theatre.  It was a production of firsts – Asbury’s first show, my first lead and my first good review (thanks Jim Morekis!).

Me backstage at Asbury Memorial Theatre, dressed as Act I Frederic.

Me backstage at Asbury Memorial Theatre, dressed as Act I Frederic.

     I remember the thrill and frustration of learning all the topsy-turvy lyrics. It was like learning a foreign language. I also remember getting to live out swashbuckling daydreams in the form of stage combat and fencing.

Me with a sword!

Me with a sword! Ha-ha!

     But I digress. Learning that Miss Maggie and I would be directing this fantastic piece of theatre, I did get nostalgic. But more than that, I thought, “These kids are going to have a blast!”

     We’ve only just begun, but already we have some wonderful moments starting to form. The language, (that can be difficult for adults to wrap their brains around – let alone, middle schoolers), is starting to take hold. And the kids are starting to infuse their own goofy and fun humor into it. We can’t wait to work with the big pirate ship and swords!

     I am so proud of them and excited to show you all the hard work they have done.  I also look forward to the day when they can look over old photographs and reminisce fondly on their days as pirates.

Inaugural Post!

_____Congratulations! You are reading the first words of The Savannah Children’s Theatre’s new blog! Yippee! Here’s a picture to show you how excited we are to have you:

The Pirates of Penzance, Jr. _____See?! So excited.

_____We are about to enter our 10th season at SCT…I know, right?! Ten years! One decade!  One-tenth of a century! I guess that last one doesn’t sound as impressive.

_____Throughout the year, this blog will be used to promote upcoming events and to show you, our loyal patrons, a more thorough view of what goes on behind the scenes at SCT. But we’re not here to talk about any of that right now. Right now, I’d like to take you on a little tour of the photo above.

_____This photo is from our 2008 production of The Pirates of Penzance, Jr, directed by Jenn Doubleday & Megan Youngblood. Our Creative Dramatics II class will be presenting that zany Gilbert & Sullivan musical again this fall, under the amazing direction of Maggie Lee Hart and Christopher Blair. But wait! We aren’t talking about that either!

_____The students that you see in the photo above have, for the most part, graduated high school and moved on with their lives. Why is that significant? Well, because they’re all SCT alum, and they’re all doing amazingly creative things with their burgeoning adulthood. Of the students photographed above, one is currently working summer stock at The Lost Colony in North Carolina and studying musical theatre at Elon University. Other students, who are rising college freshmen, will be studying performing arts at The New School, SCAD, Valdosta State, and College of Charleston, and other prestigious universities.

_____The students in this photograph who have not yet graduated are still involved in SCT, cultivating their talents and serving their community. 5 years ago they were singing, dancing pirates, and now they are singing, dancing young adults who willingly volunteer their nights and weekends to make our town a brighter place.

_____My hope is that five years from now (10! 20! 50!), I will be able to say the same about the next generation of young performers. I hope that they will grow with us as we fulfill our mission statement to inspire, educate, and entertain.

_____And to be the very model of a modern children’s theatre. 🙂