BWW Blog: Aww Gee! First Time Working Children's Theatre
As college students, most of us have probably become accustomed to working with fellow actors our age who may have been doing theatre for several years, but how often are we getting involved in our communities to work with children and teens who are being introduced to theatre for potentially the first time? This July, I did just that.
In continuing with my summer break goal of introducing myself to as much "unconventional" and different theatre than what I am accustomed to, I worked with my town's local Community Arts Center on their children's theatre camp production of "Annie Jr."
Produced by the Community Arts Center of Cambria County and directed by Sue Brick, these students, ranging from 7-18 years old, had just 5 days to learn, memorize, and put on this entire musical production - a feat not easily done. I had the wonderful opportunity of working on props, costumes, and getting sound boards up and running. Our small tech crew was about to embark on an incredible weeks long journey.
This group of 17 kids worked tirelessly every day to get this show off the ground. Half of the cast would go into the music room in the mornings for vocal lessons, and the other half would stay out on stage with us to get their blocking, direction, and choreography. After lunch, we'd always play some type of quick game, whether it was theatre related or just Duck, Duck, Goose (or in our case Duck, Duck, Animal - You had to act out what animal you got tagged as. You got tagged as a sloth? Congrats, you have to chase the other person as slow as a sloth. Incredible fun, and highly recommended.) Post lunch brought us back to working hard.
After the week was done, I felt terrible because I couldn't see their show as I was working ANOTHER show (next week's article) that same evening. I was devastated. These kids did an incredible job this entire week, and as I went to say my goodbyes to the kids, I cried my eyes out. I am so incredibly proud of everything they accomplished, and grateful to my fellow crew members that decided to give me a chance - especially since this was my first time doing children's theatre.
My favorite memory had to be from the week was during sound check. Our director and vocal director had me checking levels for the lavaliers each student was wearing for that afternoon's dress rehearsal. To make sure they got me talking enough to set volumes, I decided to recite my monologue from this past semester at Pitt-Johnstown from when I played Titania in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I found out, half of my students didn't know who Shakespeare was, which turned into me giving them a quick 10 minute history lesson, and gushing about good ol' Willy Shakes. These kids probably thought I was crazy, but I didn't care.
If there is one thing that I learned from working with, teaching, and playing with these kids is that they have such an intense want to learn. No matter if it was a new song, choreography, or just a game after lunch, they were incredibly attentive and driven. Not only that, but they were all in this for their love of theatre. There were no feelings of competition between them, or lack of participation from anyone.
These kids have taught me to let go more, to loosen up, and have more fun with my craft. I feel like some days we take things way too seriously, and if we're not having fun while doing it, we're not doing it right.
I've thought for a while during my studies at Pitt-Johnstown that I want to teach theatre, to be the one helping students achieve their dreams, and after this week with these incredible kids, they definitely solidified those aspirations for me. I'm excited to see what next summer will bring!