Thanks to Danni Surre at the Spring Hill Advertiser News for this fantastic write up about our company and goals to serve the community!
Midsouth Youth Theatre seeking help to fund state’s first production of “Frozen Jr.”
FEB 19, 2019 — Now’s not the time for Sarah Kennedy to be shy about asking for help. Her Spring Hill community theater company, Midsouth Youth Theatre and Arts, was recently granted the honors of being the state’s first theater company to bring the junior adaptation of Disney’s runaway hit movie “Frozen” to the stage, and it’s going to take about $13,000 to do it.
Kennedy, artistic director for the non-profit community theater group, said finding funding for such shows has always been a challenge that she has been willing to meet head-on since the company’s founding in April 2017. This time is no different, which is why she is appealing to local businesses and community members to help.
In the midst of schools nationwide cutting arts programs from its budgets, the importance of community theater has never been higher, according to Kennedy. It is unique in that the program is free of cost to participants, with exception of a small registration fee per show which covers the cost of things like printing the scripts. Where many theater arts programs charge a monthly tuition, community theaters, by in large, are free of financial cost to its participants. It’s a notion that Kennedy said is of utmost importance to her so that all children, despite their families’ financial abilities, can participate.
“Theater teaches you a lot about teamwork, about setting goals and expectations, and all of these life skills that are really important in general,” Kennedy said.
In her earliest days of theater with the Maury County Arts Guild, Kennedy said she began working with teens and that’s when she first saw the impact that theater can have on kids.
“You had all these kids from different schools, different walks of life, different everything that never would have interacted with one another had it not been for theater,” she said. “Now, 15 years later, they are in each other’s weddings, still in daily communication with one another, and I even have one who is a mom now that helps me with production.”
She said it has been fun seeing where her former students are today. Some now occupy political stages, speaking publicly on important issues on a daily basis. Others have found a place in creative careers like makeup artistry and, according to Kennedy, a lot of that success is thanks to the creative freedom they experienced while participating in theater.
“It’s that feeling of being able to express themselves creatively and not be afraid because there’s no right or wrong way to be creative,” she said. “It’s important to be able to feel what it’s like to try those things out and they never would’ve been able to do that anywhere else.”
Since its foundation just under two years ago, the company has produced four shows including “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Lion King.”
In its infancy, Kennedy said the casts would practice in borrowed spaces everywhere from the Spring Hill Library to the garages and front yards of cast members. “Sometimes I would just roll up with my truck and we would play the CD,” she said. “I had costumes and props in the back of my SUV and then I would load everything up and go home.”
This season, the company had the good fortune of receiving permission from the Tennessee Children’s Home to use a vacant building located on its property on Kedron Road for a regular rehearsal space and and has developed a partnership with Church of the City to utilize their auditorium for shows.
So far this season, the company has produced two shows, “A Seussified Christmas Carol” and the familiar Broadway title “Seussical: The Musical,” a colorful and quirky production based on the stories of children’s author Dr. Seuss. Kennedy said “Seussical” alone drew about 250 audience members at each of its three performances.
The next two shows for them are “Charlotte’s Web” on March 29 and 30 and the statewide premiere of “Frozen Jr.” on May 3 and 4, with 7 p.m. shows each night and a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturdays.
Its casts and crews are always comprised of a variety of levels of talent from ages four to 18, Kennedy said. Auditions are always open to the public and Kennedy said she has had anywhere between 14 and 34 children in show. Parents pitch in by volunteering their time to help build sets, create costumes, and sell tickets to the shows. Kennedy even employs a small number of teachers per production and is currently seeking another addition to the team to help with public relations, fundraising, and grant writing.
In the meantime, she has been relegated to finding creative ways to fund the group’s productions, everything from selling thrifted goods online to working 40-hour weeks stocking grocery shelves overnight while her young son and husband sleep. A self-described “scrappy” woman, Kennedy said every dime she can manage to scrape together goes towards buying that next bolt of fabric for a costume or the wood for that next stage set. It’s a kind of hustle, she said, that a lot of people don’t understand why she continues to do for no paycheck and little recognition.
“Look at all of these kids that wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore the arts without me because their families couldn’t afford it, or their schools didn’t offer it, or maybe they were naturally drifting towards circles that wouldn’t support that type of thing,” Kennedy said. “It’s changed the entire trajectory of their life.”
It’s that passion for changing young lives that has her reaching out to the community for financial support for upcoming productions. Kennedy said that monetary donations from local businesses or individuals are the best way to make an immediate impact for her program and are tax-deductible. She does also accept donations of supplies that can be used for costumes, props, and sets. Kennedy said that any business that donates will be advertised on the group’s social media accounts and mailing list.
“I believe in what the arts can do for kids, and I want to be able to give them the opportunities to explore as much as they want to,” she said.
Midsouth Youth Theatre and Arts can be found on Facebook or on its website at www.midsouthyouththeatre.org.