January 31, 2013
13-18

Jessica Pope
Communications Specialist

VSU Kicks Off Theatre For Youth Production This Weekend

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University Theatre and Dance will help open kids up to the possibilities of who they could be — not who they should be — when it presents “Free To Be … You And Me,” the 2012-2013 Theatre for Youth production.

Performances are scheduled for the general public at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1, and 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, in Sawyer Theatre on the first floor of the Fine Arts Building. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens, $8 for children and non-VSU students, free for VSU students, and $7 for groups of 10 or more.

Based on the book by Marlo Thomas and Friends, “Free To Be … You And Me” takes life-enhancing themes and combines them with music and humor to help kids view the world and its endless possibilities. It expands their personal horizons and then enables them to create their own futures — without limitations. Along the way, it dispels some old constraints and worn-out conventions.

“As always, it is a pleasure to communicate the important themes of a play,” said Jacque Wheeler, show director and choreographer. “In this case, those themes include the thought that each of us is a unique individual with unique talents to develop. Each of us can be anything we would like to be. Parents are people just like children; it is all right to show your emotions, even if it means you are crying; it is good to have friends; and we are all free to be … you and me.”

After this weekend’s performances, VSU Theatre and Dance will take “Free To Be … You And Me” on tour. Destinations include Valdosta, Homerville, Cordele, Americus, Adel, and Madison, Fla.  

“We generally do 15 to 20 tour performances,” Wheeler shared, “… at school locations or at arts centers in various communities around Valdosta.”

Wheeler said the goal of the annual Theatre for Youth productions is to expose kids in the rural South Georgia area to live theatrical performances. At the same time, the participating actors, actresses, and production team members talk to the attendees about the importance of post-secondary education and share lessons specific to the production.

“The students are excited and engaged by the performances,” she continued. “We provide educational materials for pre- and post-performance activities. Many, many places ask us to return, which speaks to the popularity and educational value of the performances.”

Theatres for Youth productions are primarily geared toward elementary school boys and girls, in kindergarten through the fifth grade. Wheeler estimated that this year’s show will reach an audience of 6,500 people.    

VSU has a long tradition of serving the kids of South Georgia and North Florida by bringing live theatrical events to them. The College of the Arts has offered Theatre for Youth productions for over 30 years, Wheeler noted.

“We intend to continue the long history of presenting plays for young audiences,” she said. “It is a service to our region and part of our commitment to outreach activities in our community. It also assists in the academic preparation of our Bachelor of Fine Arts students by offering another unique performance opportunity.”

VSU’s production of “Free To Be … You And Me” is supported in part by an Arts Education in American Communities grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Wheeler, professor and head of the Theatre and Dance Area, applied for and received the $10,000 grant. In her application, she noted that the funds would be used to both increase understanding of the arts for area youth and to provide live cultural experiences in the arts for youth who live in rural, underserved areas.

VSU’s Fine Arts Building is located at the intersection of Oak Street and Brookwood Drive.

To purchase tickets, contact the VSU Theatre and Dance Box Office at (229) 333-5973 between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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Director and Choreographer: Jacque Wheeler

Music Director: Dr. Christopher Bailey

Scenic and Lighting Designer: Ruth A. Brandvik

Costume Designer: Rebecca Huguet

Technical Director: Michael Driggers

Stage Manager: Caleb Spivey

Production Staff: Dr. Jennifer Rahman (Educational Materials); Ryan Ponsell (Assistant Technical Director); Rebecca Morris (Master Carpenter); Caleb Spivey (Properties Master); Genna Kasun (Paint Charge); Kathy Raess-Young (Costume Shop Supervisor); Ryan Ponsell, Jared Kay, Rebecca Morris, and Genna Kasun (Scene Shop Assistants); Patrice Trower and Rebecca Huguet (Costume Shop Assistants); THEA 2750, THEA 3720A, and THEA 3720B (Scenic Construction Crew); and THEA 3720C (Costume Construction Crew)

Ensemble: Diamond Do’zia, Blake Fountain, Rebecca Morris, Chela North, Ethan Parker, Kelsey Russo, Maxwell Swangle, and Larren Woodward