I am the mother of two daughters: an extrovert and an introvert, an athlete and an artist. Each has had her share of challenges and victories, and I’m blessed to be along for the ride.
Our family’s journey led us to Randolph’s theater department. It blew me away. It continues to blow me away.
My introverted child struggles with casual social exchanges. When she was in the Lower School these exchanges often paralyzed her. Imagine my surprise when she asked to audition for the 5th/6th grade play. Her dad and I thought it would be good for her, so we agreed, crossed our fingers and held our breath. She didn’t get a speaking part, but there was no paralysis on stage, so we considered it a victory.
The next year, she auditioned again, and did get a speaking part: one line. “Okay, great!” we thought, “this will be quick and fairly risk-free.” Her character was a lady in Prince Charming’s court who had a crush on the prince. Easy enough. We looked forward to watching her performance on Friday night.
That day, however, I started getting texts from friends who had gone to watch the school performance earlier in the day:
“Was that your kid on that stage?!?!”
“Your child was a different person today!”, etc.
I had no idea what was going on until that night. When it was time for her scene; my shy, socially-struggling child was missing. In her place, out rushed a prince-stalking, boy-crazy lady of the court, and she was hilarious! One line was delivered with such comedic timing that the audience burst with laughter.
So here’s the thing about this kiddo. She’s shy around people, but she LOVES people. That weekend, thanks to Randolph’s theater program, she discovered she could make them laugh. She could make them feel. She found her voice. She discovered that voice could do good and amazing things: on stage, in her church, in her community. She hasn’t slowed down since.
Every child has a voice — an important one — a voice singular to that kid. One uniquely crafted for him or her to help shape our world, and I love it when they find that voice. I am not an educator, so this is not something I’d gotten to witness often — kids finding their voices. That is, not until my child’s journey landed her in Randolph’s theater department.
Now, wow! The voices I witness! I will make a bold statement (I do that sometimes):
WHATEVER A CHILD’S PERSONALITY OR INTERESTS, RANDOLPH’S THEATER DEPARTMENT CAN HELP HIM OR HER FIND AND USE THAT VOICE IN LIFE-ENHANCING WAYS.
And so there’s no confusion, I’m not necessarily referring to speaking voices. I’m talking about the "how-I-express-myself-and-make-an-impact" voices. For some, that voice is athletic skill and competition. For others, academics. For still others, music, visual, languages or performing arts.
Step back and think about all the different talents and skill sets required to make a business venture a success, and you’ll start to see what I mean. I’m revealing what may be one of Randolph’s best kept secrets: our students get to experience every aspect of creating, producing, marketing and selling a product firsthand – in the Theater Department!
I’m revealing what may be one of Randolph’s best kept secrets.
Your child think he or she might like technology? Tell him or her to create and execute a lighting design. Those kids change the audience's mood, transport them to another time and place.
When I commented on the beauty and historical accuracy of the costumes worn in an Upper School play. A kid walking by said matter-of-factly, “Yeah, Fiona designed those.” Fiona' 17 was then a 10th grader! Oh, and by the way, move over Sci-Fi channel, Face Off’s got nothin’ on our Randolph kids and their hair and makeup designs.
What about athletic kids who like doing stuff with their hands? The theater department teaches kids how to design, build and, yes, demo sets. These sets are intricate, sturdy and true-to-life: house interiors with an upstairs and downstairs … and …. stairs … that work; a four-seater, on-stage drivable Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
What about the entrepreneurial child? Come up with a plan on how to market the production and increase ticket sales, and I bet the theater department can put you to work!
Into graphic design? Advertising and marketing? Those kids work on playbills, promotional posters and T-shirts. Would your child like researching details and historical accuracy? He or she can be in charge of props, making sure they are appropriate for the time, place and each character. Does your child simply love to meet and talk to people? That child can usher or help with ticket sales.
Children who love music can create and implement sound design – everything from overtures to sound effects. Children who enjoy photography can help document and publicize the performances.
Have you noticed I haven’t even gotten to the script and performers? When I first penned this post, two years ago, I remarked thatI hadn’t yet seen a play written by a Randolph student, but that I wouldn’t be surprised if I got the opportunity over the next few years. Why? Because in true Randolph fashion, the theater department lets kids live and learn through hands-on experience.
And so that has now happened: Upper School theater teacher Connie had a class made up of seven girls. She couldn't find a script for them to perform, so she asked Bankston '18 to take a stab at writing one for her over the summer. She did and the result was a dramatic thriller entitled Rose. The theater class competed the play and it won Best-in-Show at the District I Walter Trumbauer Secondary Theater Festival. Two of the actors received awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for their performances.
That shy, prince-crazed lady of the court I told you about earlier is now a senior, and already she has had the opportunity to perform in four Upper School shows, helped coordinate props in another, student-directed the spring musical: A Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum. and performed in The Yellow Boat and The Ugly Duckling. She will be the comedy Dearly Departed in October 2017.
Children who love to dance or sing have a blast on stage and, every few years, Randolph does an all-school musical. It is really special to see the Upper School kids mentoring and taking care of the Lower and Middle schoolers, the younger kids looking up to the older ones.
Children not only get to try out new and different voices at Randolph. The theater department provides them opportunities to compete at state and national competitions. One summer, my child lived on the University of Nebraska campus for a week and met kids from all over the country. As of this year, she’s competed here in Huntsville as well as in Troy and Birmingham. I have to confess that, until recently, I thought only the performers were competing.
I should have known better: our kids are competing in lighting, set, music and sound designs; costume concepts, set design and construction; makeup and hair concepts. They compete what they write, play and interpret through blocking and character portrayal.
Out of all the amazing things that I’ve seen happen in the theater department, though, I think the most magical is what we all get to see happen when these kids - with their different personalities, talents and interests - bring their gifts to the table and collaborate. Watching them share ideas, agree and disagree, problem solve, come together as a team, create and express is incredible.
In getting to know these children, I’ve realized that, in large part due to their theater experiences, they understand the power of voices. They seem to appreciate on a deeper level that there are different types of genius and that each is an important part of a whole. Maybe because they’ve tried it and only when all of these different personalities and perspectives worked together did the show go on.
Bravo, Theater Departments! Encore! Encore!
The mother of two Randolph students, Amy Strain Creech practices family law and is the managing member at Rhodes & Creech Attorneys at Law. She is President of the National Children’s Advocacy Center Board of Directors and serves on the Madison County Volunteer Lawyers Board of Directors. In 2015, she was awarded the Alabama State Bar Albert L. Vreland Pro Bono Award for Leadership & Contribution to Equal Justice. In the community, Amy supports numerous causes and organizations focused on hunger, children's and legal issues, and teaches Sunday school at Church of the Nativity. She has held a variety of volunteer positions at Randolph and is currently an Admissions Ambassador.