My daughter has been in classes at Drama Learning Center from the 3rd to 8th grades. Right away, besides her having so much fun, I loved the life skills she was forming through participating in theatre. The obvious ones include public speaking, being comfortable in front of a crowd, and listening to direction. But there are so many more skills that develop when one leaves their comfort zone and does something hard—not only for their self but for the success of the group. As part of a theatre troop a child learns how important even little things are like showing up on time and staying focused. They learn that if you don’t put in the work on your own then you will not be ready to give your best for the group. The tryout process is one of the most important things I can think of for a child to experience to prepare for adulthood. The handling of nerves, the waiting, the let down or exhilaration when the cast list is announced; learning to see value and have pride about any role no matter how seemingly small because in theatre every small and large part is equally vital to success.
I did not participate in theatre myself while growing up but I had the unique opportunity the past six years to not only be the parent of a student but also be a scenic painter at DLC. And they do a LOT of shows. The coordination and planning of the schedule and sets for the in house shows, different programs for toddlers, kids, teens, and adults, plus the after school programs in many schools, in house summer camps, summer programs at schools, school break days, and birthday parties is mind boggling. I never knew the amount of people behind the scenes it took to run a show. Over and again I have been impressed with the level of professionals DLC brings in to design and produce. The staff follows the lead of owner Stephanie Williams by going above and beyond mere children’s theatre to creating unique and complex sets, costumes, lighting, music, and overall production for each and every show. Stephanie herself is hands on in some way for each show to make sure a high level of standard is experienced for the students and audience.
I was able to see all this as a proverbial fly on the wall as I was painting in the attached warehouse all hours of the day and night. I have been privy to listening to classes and rehearsals at every age level. From individual singing coaching, the staff handling excited and distracted students, the handling of occasional break downs from nerves, the hectic tech weeks, even the late night production meetings that happened after every tech week rehearsal to tweak the set, lighting, lines, anything to make the show the best it can be–I’ve observed it all from the sidelines.
Of course I have wonderful memories of watching my daughter and occasionally my other children on stage but I would like to share two of my favorite memories that aren’t about my kids. One is from the first show I assisted in set painting. I am a mural artist and had not painted for theatre before that show. It was a Red Branch Theatre production for an audience of children. I took my five elementary school age children to see it. When the first set change occurred to my surprise all the kids in the audience gasped in amazement. It immediately brought tears to my eyes because of the feeling of being a part of something that not only brought joy to the audience but also was a part of a large team effort to put on a great show. A valuable lesson kids in theatre get to learn young. The second is from one of the elementary/middle school shows when one of the lead actors messed up at the very beginning of her solo during a performance. It was the big song right before intermission. The mistake
threw her off emotionally and she was visibly shaken as she persevered through the song and dance number as best she could while being upset. It was hard to watch but the audience was proud of her for not quitting and gave strong applause and cheers. During intermission the set was changed for the next scene. Then, as the audience waited for the second act stage hands came out and put the set back where it had been for the end of the first act. The director and assistants/counselors had decided that this one child’s personal success was more important than what was planned and the actor came out for a do-over of that last song. She sang and danced her heart out and the smile on her face for having performed in the way she knew she could was priceless. It was a special moment and the audience cheered louder than before. I was not only full of pride for her display of fortitude but also impressed with seeing another example of the DLC staff setting value on each child’s learning experience to be the best it can be.
The current global pandemic has been hard on everyone. The only time my daughter cried over something being cancelled was when DLC had to close. The spring show was to be her last with that age group that she has been with for six years and she had been looking forward to the excitement and importance of graduating. My kids are involved in many different sports and activities but when the pandemic hit and continues, out of all the organizations we are involved in, my mind and heart is with DLC. It is a local treasure with connections to countless kids and families in our community for over 30 years! There are many activities kids can be involved in to learn life skills and personal growth, however, I have found none that teach so many skills all at once and immediately, with lasting effects, even if they only ever do one show. Leadership, teamwork, public speaking, reading comprehension, independent thought, creativity, and the value of hard work—I am grateful DLC has been a part of my kids’ lives. I look with hopefulness for DLC to persevere through this extremely hard time for businesses just like they have taught decades of children to persevere no matter what happens. I hope as a community we see the far reaching value of, “The show must go on!”
Thank you to Stacy Brocker for sharing her talent through the years as well as this first-hand account of the impact that Drama Learning Center has made on her family. She has recently moved out of town, and we will miss Stacy and her family. As you might imagine, the impact of this global pandemic and its economic fallout impacts small businesses the most. We remain committed to keeping our students and staff safe, and are hopeful that we will be able to weather this storm. We thank everyone who has already encouraged us or sent support by way of donations to keep our operations moving forward up until now. If you haven’t yet made a donation or are able to contribute again, please know that your support at this time makes all the difference in whether or not Drama Learning Center will be around when it is safe to regather and tell stories on stage again.