The stage is a magic circle where only the most real things happen, a neutral territory outside the jurisdiction of Fate where stars may be crossed with impunity. A truer and more real place does not exist in all the universe. — P.S. Baber
The Birmingham Children’s Theatre (BCT) wants children to become what Jen Lane calls “lifelong lovers of the arts.”
Lane, BCT’s director of production and education, said the goal of this organization is to help children to gain a “lifelong arts appreciation and to give them a neutral ground to grow and express themselves,” which includes exposing the kids to the arts.
Among other things, BCT offers seasonal academies for any children and teenagers who are interested in participating. The academy began this summer on June 16, with four weeks of workshops and classes helping the students develop their craft and gain experiences they wouldn’t normally receive at home or in school.
“There are a lot of kids who don’t have arts programs in their schools and there is something inside of them that they need to get out. For a lot students this is a great way for them to express themselves,” said Lane.
One of the academy’s students and counselors, Delaney Murphy (15), said she has enjoyed discovering herself and coming out of her shell. “I have recently realized how much I enjoy acting and musical theater. I love that I can just let go and be myself.”
The Summer Academy is split into five “acts,” which separates each age group. “Act One” consists of the younger children in grades 4K-5K. “Act Two” includes first and second graders, and so forth. These “acts” end with 16-year-olds.
The teachers in the Summer Academy include professional actors, costumers and directors. Some of their teachers and counselors are also theater students at the University of Montevallo.
Administrative Director Jennifer Spiegelman, a teacher in the academy, said the program offers many ways for the children to develop their craft. “We have acting, singing, dancing, art and design studio where kids can make costumes and set designs,” said Spiegelman.
Spiegelman teaches a class called Creative Dramatics. This is for the “Act One” group, where the kids are given an introduction to theater. This includes voice warm-ups, games that teach the kids to work as a team and backstage etiquette.
The staff expresses an importance in focusing on the craft of each individual and to help the students develop their skills and interests. Because of this, the BCT has received many positive responses from parents.
“The parents love it because their children get to target all of that energy to something creative and positive,” said Spiegelman.
Lane, whose son Dean is in the “Act Two” group this year, said he has opened up a great deal from his experience with the academy. Lane and Spiegelman both noted that kids do not even realize they are learning.
“The kids just think they’re playing. They don’t realize how many skills they’re learning in the process. We encourage the kids to be as goofy as they want to be,” said Spiegelman.
Murphy said she enjoys watching and working with the little ones the most. “Seeing them come out of their shells and seeing the magic of theater is a joy to be a part of.”
The BCT also offers students the chance to develop lifelong skills in communication, cooperation and experimentation which can be used when they’re old enough to be employed. This includes the kids learning by making mistakes and picking themselves back up.
“The students that come here don’t necessarily have to have an aspiration to be in the fine arts for a living,” said Lane. “This is about the kids having fun and enjoying being who they are. Hopefully the kids who go through the program leave with an appreciation for the arts.”
All proceeds from the BCT academies go toward the theater expenses, including paying their staff, gathering supplies and providing sheet music.
For more information on the BCT and their summer program go to bct123.org or call Lane at (205) 458-8182.