Theatre Makes a Difference
Written by Molly Malone, CFRT Director of Education & Outreach
At five I was like any other child my age—eager for fun and adventure; rarely able to sit still for more than a few minutes. Until Stewart Little came into my life. The introduction wasn’t typical. It wasn’t from the pages of a storybook. Rather, it was the first play I ever saw and it amazed, excited and propelled me toward my destiny. I vividly remember being amazed by how the actors were all the same size, but fully believed the actor playing “Stewart” was much smaller than everyone else. My five-year old self believed these people had magical powers. I wanted that.
I first stepped on stage in the third grade when my mom took my sister and me to audition for The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree at what was then called Wingate College. All three of us were cast. Every part of the experience was thrilling—putting on my costume, singing on stage, and feeling like I was creating something amazing! By my freshman year of high school, theatre was a large part of my life. It was a second home. I was hooked and gave up dance classes and athletics for rehearsal time and play performances. I wanted more.
A UNC-Greensboro, I realized I wanted to do more than just acting. I needed a way to share theater with as many people as possible. I declared Theatre Education as my major and never looked back. Every year I was able to observe more classes, work with more theatre teachers, direct more shows, and it only reinforced that theatre changes lives for the better. I needed to share my discovery of this wonderful art form with as many young people as possible. I wanted to share.
Teaching theater in high school provided me the opportunity to introduce about 200 students a year to the art form. My first classroom was an auditorium built in the 70s. The school was proud of what good care they had taken of it, and beyond excited to have a person dedicated to teaching theatre. While the administration was extremely supportive of my direction with the program, my true joy came from moments when a student would say they had avoided fighting all semester because they knew they would be kicked out of the play, or when students would decide to engage in an activity instead of dwell on the rough morning or week they had at home. I saw firsthand that theatre changes lives.
When I moved back to Tennessee to take over and rebuild the program that had changed my life, I saw teenagers hungry for an outlet. They needed an escape; they needed approval; they needed theatre. Through lessons about American playwrights, the history of theatre, and puppetry, I would see students come to understand that they are not alone, they can create positive change, and they can make a difference. I have seen students almost silent due to Autism speak and play through their puppet. I have seen students struggling with an absent or abusive parent find a loving and caring home with their theatre family. I have seen students struggling with who they are work through internal conflict to find peace.
It was a tough decision to step away from the close community of a classroom and into the role of Director of Education and Outreach at Cape Fear Regional Theatre. With the education programs at CFRT, I hope to spread wonderful theater experiences to thousands of children across the Fayetteville community and beyond. My goal for 2016 is to grow the education program in the amount of students we can reach and in the quality of offerings. This growth will come from a chain reaction that starts with this month’s 25 Days of Giving. Using this growing foundation, I will reach out to public and private, military and civilian schools to build the student base. Bringing in more young people will require access to more resources and space. As we grow in numbers we will find that this chain reaction is cyclical, and my hope is that we continue to revisit each step and create an education program that will become a model for other education programs at other theatres. Through our Studio classes, summer camps, the Classic theatre series, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever I hope to bring the same joy and awe to children I felt so many years ago when my life was first changed by theatre. Theatre makes a difference!
Please consider donating to #25DaysOfGiving to help Molly expand CFRT’s youth education & outreach programs. Your support can help Molly develop the space and grow the resources needed to reach more children in 2016. Thank you for your consideration!