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.

The Commitment to Wear Tights, by Maggie Lee Hart

     It’s tech week and our Creative Dramatics II students are pepped up to share their work of Once Upon A Mattress, Jr for their friends and family this weekend.  The excitement that is felt within SCT’s walls will be focused on the last remaining elements of our production including; completion of set construction, lighting and sound design, and full runs of the show in costume!  So pull up your tights and put on your dancing shoes!

     What makes a production successful?  It is the organization and commitment by all people associated with creating the show.  This is true not only for SCT, but for any show being produced.  It takes every single person and student to understand the commitment they have agreed to when signing up to be involved with a show.  The absence of a cast member affects every single element of a production.  Many adjustments need to be made. New formations of a dance must be choreographed and the absentee’s lines and lyrics redistributed so the story may be told.  The microphone plot must be redone, and the scene change list revised. . But most importantly, the loss of their voice and energy within the ensemble can be felt within the morale of the cast.

     From the start of creating a production, our process consists of a group of artists who wish to create a unique and unified show.   SCT classes are offered to be a learning experience, and I hope we have illustrated how important every single person and every single role is in the success of production.  It is commitment as a whole that makes SCT glitter and glow.

     To see the outcome of this wonderful team-building process, visit us this weekend during one of our three public performances. Friday at 7pm, or Saturday and Sunday at 3pm, we will be at the theatre popping the popcorn and swirling the cotton candy, ready to delight and entertain!  Tickets can be purchased here or at the door and are $12-$15.  The memories are priceless.

Shall We Dance? by Jenn Doubleday

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___This card, given to me by the incomparable Mary-E Godfrey, holds a special place of honor on the wall above my desk.  I have seen these faces, and others like them, staring back at me at many a rehearsal.  This week’s recital rehearsals are no different!  Since January, my dance students and I have been learning and rehearsing on SCT’s incredible dance floor, complete with a mirrored wall, excellent sound system, and sprung marley floor.  But on recital week, everything changes!  They are now expected to do the same choreography on a slick, hardwood floor, under constantly changing lights, in itchy-tickly costumes, and without the benefit of a mirror.  All of this, and their teacher can’t even answer their one question.  What is this year’s theme? 

   Shall We Dance.  When I first approached this working title I was stumped.  In the past, SCT’s Dance for Musical Theatre showcases have been styled around many themes including Broadway, Hollywood, poetry, and most recently, holiday music.  However, Shall We Dance breaks the mold, sauntering in boldly without a theme; it might as well be titled Songs Ms. Jenn Likes. 

    Everyone thought this show would be ballroom dancing, but no!  Not enough boys to go around and my tall girls are really tired of pretending to be macho.  Then I chose songs about dancing, a few of which made the final cut (Land of 1,000 Dances and Music Box Dancer, for example).  Growing tired of the same “dance-even-when-you-don’t-feel-like-it” mantra, I sought yet another direction.  I decided to tackle a different dance style with each song; one country western (Some Days), one jive (C’mon Everybody), one lyrical (Let it Go), and so on.  As the weeks progressed, the playlist became more and more eclectic.

___At first I felt compelled to apologize for this blatant disregard of tradition, but then these amazing young people that I am blessed to call my students challenged me.  “Sometimes you’ve gotta dance to your own music,” they said.  And we do!  We created our own music for our homage to Stomp, and we choreographed a beautiful canon without any music at all and then found the perfect song to fit it (Life Uncommon).  We also threw in some of our favorite trend songs (Royals, anyone?) and some Cirque du Soleil for our newest addition, SCT’s Aerial Silk Artists.

___Once we stopped trying to limit ourselves to a certain genre, we became liberated to dance to our own beat.  These precious young dancers may not find a need for grande battements or pirouettes  in their grown-up lives, but they will always find the need to be bold.  This weekend, as you watch them fearlessly leap, twirl, and climb to new heights, I hope you will enjoy our eclectic mix of music and personalities, and I hope it will inspire you to dance to your own music.

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