Dallas Children's Theater Blog

Astonishing Kids And Families With The Fun of Broadway-Like Plays and A Lot More!

At DCT, art is alive…inside and out!

Artist Dominic Benhura visits the site of Acrobats, a sculpture donated to DCT in 2017…

On a perfect day in June 2021, Artist Dominic Benhura came to DCT to both take in the setting for one of his works of art and to show us how to keep bringing to life the precious springstone through a unique polishing technique. This sculpture, aptly titled Acrobats, was donated to DCT in honor of the theater’s Founder and Executive Director Robyn Flatt by Jane and Bill Travis. 

DCT Donors Jane and Bill Travis in 2017 at the Dallas Arboretum where they first spotted the sculpture.

As a longtime supporter of DCT, Bill felt that the sculpture was a perfect depiction of the spirit, energy, and playfulness that DCT sparks in young people through its shows and class offerings.

Poised in front of Acrobats is artist Dominic Behura, promoter Vivienne Prince, Sculpture Donor Jane Travis and DCT Founder and Executive Director Robyn Flatt

Joined by British born promoter, Vivienne Prince, both Dominic and Vivienne appreciated the chance to see the art in its setting and getting to share with DCT friends what the piece means to them. Since COVID was still halting the normal amount of pitter patter around the sculpture at DCT, Dallas guests shared with the artists how inspiring it was to see children laughing, playing and enjoying the space before and after they see shows at DCT.

DCT staff and supporters gather on a lovely June morning to celebrate art in all of its forms.

Dominic Benhura, now 53 years old, studied sculpture since age ten under his master sculptor cousin Tapfuma Gusta. He sold his first piece professionally to architects at the age of twelve. He’s remained connected with his young self, and his pieces are frequently inspired by children, nature, and family— making his work a perfect fit for DCT! According to Dominic, “I’m from Africa where everything said about it is sad. There are so many sad things about Africa, but I realized early on that children, despite the difficulties they’re going through anywhere in the world—children are very playful, always. So when I heard that my piece was sent to a children’s theater, I was so excited that children would forever get a chance to enjoy this work!

Benhura’s work is regarded as the cutting edge of Zimbabwe sculpture with one-man exhibitions in Zimbabwe sculpture with one-man exhibitions in Zimbabwe, Australia, Belgium, Holland, Germany and America. He combines fire and wax to bring out the natural beauty in the stone. More of Benhura’s work is available for viewing at the Dallas Arboretum through August 8th. View here!

Families are the heart of Benhura’s work, and the heart of Dallas Children’s Theater. We’re getting closer and closer to reopening, and we just can’t wait to see you again! On your next visit, be sure to take a moment to enjoy Acrobats. It would mean the world to us and Dominic whose love and passion for children is very evident in his art.

See you soon!

Image credits: Lawrence Jenkins and Kristi Cardwell

Free Screening and Talkback for ages 13 and up…Join us!

April 29th at 5:30PM…
A collaboration between DCT and
DC’s Imagination Stage

Virtual Show and Talkback
Written by: Miriam Gonzales
Directed by: LeeAnét Noble
Produced by: Imagination Stage
Total running time: 90 minutes

This commissioned film screening is the result of real conversations between young people of color and police officers.

The show:
Based in Washington, DC, Imagination Stage’s 10 SECONDS explores a world where deeply rooted biases and misperceptions easily take hold. Ray and Jimi are Washington, DC high school students who navigate their young adult worlds and what it means to be young Black men in the city. Ray tells the story of a day — and “ten seconds” inside that day — that he and Jimi will never forget, sharing not only their perspectives, but also the views of the police they encounter. Through audience engagement and interactive moments, the film provides opportunities for reflection and discussion.

Background: 10 SECONDS started in 2007 with a collaboration between the Washington, DC Police Foundation, a youth-serving non-profit organization aligned with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and Imagination Stage, a professional theater for youth based in Bethesda. The partnership brought together students ages 10-18 and law enforcement officers to participate in theater-based activities designed to find common ground–including practicing leadership skills, conflict resolution, and violence prevention– between the two groups and to empower the young people to develop leadership skills. The young participants, who are recruited by the MPD, are more than 96% African-American. Playwright Miriam Gonzales observed and collaborated with the youth and police officers to write the dynamic script.



The talkback:

This post-show discussion will feature a panel of incredible subject matter resources.
Facilitator, Denise Lee: DCT Social Justice Strategist and founder of Visions for Change, Inc.

Panelists:

Officer Devalon Lee-Arkansas of the Dallas Police Department’s (DPD) Community Affairs Department;

Shontay Miles-Davis, former Metropolitan Police Department (DC) officer;

Makenzie Grier, high school senior and member of the DPD Youth Leadership Council;

Playwright Miriam Gonazles;

Actor Tre’mon Mills.


Be a part: watch, listen, learn!


This project is made possible in Dallas thanks to

The Melinda and Jim Johnson Family

The MR and Evelyn Hudson Foundation

North Texas Cares

Deborah and Craig Sutton/Rasa Floors

Photo credits: courtesy of Imagination Stage, DCT staff, and courtesy of Denise Lee

A Future Leader’s Thoughts on Race…

Meet Ariya, a DCT Social Justice Youth Ambassador

We are so excited to be launching an initiative that gives young people a space to share their thoughts on race. Our goal is to encourage sharing and understanding of society’s challenges in order to foster healing and pave the way for a better tomorrow for our young people. After participating in DCT’s first Youth Chat, ten-year-old Ariya took some time to document and share his views on the very important subject of race. 

Let’s hear from Ariya…

  1. Racism exists around the world, and sadly, we cannot really stop it. I think that our skin colors should not matter so much; we shouldn’t judge each other by how we look.
  2. Slavery was a very cruel thing. The thought of having someone own you, whip you, sell you away from your family, and to even be able to kill you, is a very terrible thought.
  3. I know police hold a very important role in everyday life in society, but I don’t agree that they can abuse their power and, for no reason whatsoever, be racist and kill innocent people. It is very shocking that police officers will bully black people only because of their color.
  4. Colors don’t make people; it’s what people do for others that is remembered.
  5. The way that black people are treated is very unfair. We should all be treated equitably and fairly. We should all be treated equally as our race is all the same; human.
  6. The difference between #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter is that if people treat black people the same as white people, then #AllLivesMatter would work. We only say #BlackLivesMatter because they are treated worse, and we want to emphasize that black people do matter; not that they matter more.

To hear more from Ariya and others, watch DCT’s first Youth Chat conversation.


Be a part of the next conversation:

Thursday, April 29 at 5:30PM

Photo credits: courtesy of Ariya, Imagination Stage, and DCT staff

Theater shines even in the midst of the storm…

Dallas Children’s Theater and Literacy Achieves have had a longstanding partnership.

While our 2020-2021 season did not allow for the kiddos to come in our doors, we still sent out teaching artist Emily P. Faith to three campuses for distanced, masked and outdoor theater magic! Here’s her thoughts on these experiences…

When I agreed to be the Literacy Achieves teaching artist in August of 2020, I thought that it would be a cakewalk. So what if it was outside, distanced, masked and with a language barrier!…I am a THEATER ARTIST; I have been thoroughly trained in improvisation, resourcefulness and emotional regulation! On top of that, I have been teaching for the better part of a decade, so at this point, I have seen and done it all. How hard could it be?

Oh naïve me. There is nothing that could have prepared me for classes where I would project my voice over the sounds of a construction site, or wear shorts one day and a parka the next. I would also not be prepared for the move to virtual classes entirely when the winter storms hit in February while I was filming “Little Red Riding Hood” between power outages and no water. (Though, I do not think anything can prepare you for that.) I also was not prepared for the moments of connection, curiosity and courage that have kept me grounded in the unwavering belief that theater changes lives — even during a pandemic, even outside, even with masks on, even in a snowstorm, even, even, even.

Through DCT and Literacy Achieves, theater has inspired confidence in the child who refused to sing along with me in August until we discovered that he enjoys playing my ukulele. Now he shows up every week – even though his family moved an hour away – to sing loudly and accompany the group! Theater instilled bravery in the student who desperately held onto her mother’s leg for months and now is the one to beat in “freeze dance”. Theater has brought joy to parents faces each week as they watch their child learn another language and grow social emotional skills through singing, dancing and acting.

Teaching at DCT and the partnership that we have with Literacy Achieves during COVID-19 has reminded me that resilience can be taught with a bit of imagination, a dash of music and a whole lot of play. It is now my hope to never arrive at the place of having seen and done it all as a teaching artist. Not when the magic of theater is so transformative.


About Emily: Emily P. Faith is an actor, educator and will be graduating with her master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Drama Therapy in May 2021. When Emily is not teaching for the Dallas Children’s Theater, you can find her working on drama therapy research teams, directing for her theater company, Lily & Joan, and creative consulting!

Photos courtesy of Emily Faith

Help us continue to give our gifts to children…

It really is a challenging time for the performing arts.  But we are nothing if not resilient, and with the help the people who believe in us we will see Brighter Days.

In the past few months, we’ve continued the magic through a number of unprecedented projects, both in person and virtually.  Classes continue online, and we have co-produced national productions on social justice.  Our Teen Scene Players produced THE RAVEN SOCIETY as a nod to Edgar Allen Poe, and we hosted a fun Slappy and Monday adventure via Zoom.  Just earlier this month, we held a ‘Holiday Drive-Thru’ for our families with sensory sensitivities.  And coming up this month, we have a series of interactive discussions with authors of children’s books; books that teach about service, celebrations and other cultures.

Even non-itemizers have the opportunity to deduct donations up to $300 made before the end of 2020 thanks to a CARES Act provision.

Thanks for helping us keep the magic alive!

Photos by: Karen Almond, Linda Blase, Lawrence Jenkins, and DCT staff

For Philip Schaeffer, it’s a family affair.

Folks who know DCT might recognize Philip Schaeffer, or at least recognize his parents, Nancy and Karl Schaeffer, from the halls of the theater. We interviewed the Schaeffer parents, asking what their favorite Philip/DCT memory was, and their answers did not disappoint!

The Schaeffer family (l to r) Nancy, Philip, Teri Meador (Karl’s sister), Karl and his mom, Barbara.

Young Nancy (far right) in BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER

Nancy: “Philip was a very young (too young) baby angel one of the first times we did BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER. He laid on his tummy during Silent Night (supposed to be the quiet part of the show), and he used his halo as a steering wheel and pretended to drive. I was on stage as Beth – a teen – not his mom, and I could do nothing to stop it. The audience laughed and laughed. He got the bug then.

Philip (on the bottom right) in BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER (1990-1991 season)

And then years later, when he was older, he was actually working in the Box Office for BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT and one of the Herdmen got sick during the show. I grabbed him out of the Box Office during intermission, threw a robe on him, and had him go onstage as The Wise Man who brings a ham for the Baby Jesus. He ran onstage with the ham with the robe pulled down over his face so that the audience would not notice the switch.  But when he kneeled next to the manger in prayer, one of the little lambs who knew Philip as an assistant in our summer classes, leaned over and said to him “Philip, you did that wrong!” Philip had to try to hide his shaking shoulders as he was cracking up on stage. So that was a moment when he was the one laughing at an inopportune time!”

Young Karl with a youth cast in BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER

Karl: “My favorite memory of Philip was actually captured on video. Philip was four and a half years old at the time. We did a production of TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING in Feb.- Mar. of 1989. In the play, a birthday party is described, so we filmed a short birthday party scene. Philip played one of the party guests. He also must have seen the play many times.

Little brother Anthony Schaeffer as a Christmas Angel

Three months later, I videotaped Philip acting out a 14-minute version of that play. He played my part in the show and Nancy and his baby brother Anthony were drafted to play other characters. I was impressed that he remembered so many plot details and conveyed many of the emotions from the play. I’m sure growing up around Dallas Children’s Theater had a powerful influence on him and on his creativity, and I so enjoyed videotaping Philip at play.”

Young Karl with cast members in TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING


Philip Schaeffer’s latest play is streaming now on DCT Digital. Check out THE RAVEN SOCIETY starring DCT’s Teen Scene Players before it closes on Halloween night!

 

Streaming October 23-31
Ages 9 and up
Cost: As low as $10

dct.org/teen/digital

 

 

 

 

 


                                               Watch Party!

All ticket buyers will receive a link to join us Friday, October 30th at 7PM for THE RAVEN SOCIETY Watch Party, a virtual ghostly gathering hosted by the playwright, Philip Schaeffer, where we’ll watch and discuss clips from the show (recommended for ages 9 and up), talk to the cast & crew about how it was made, swap our favorite scary stories & legends (just like in summer camp!), and there may be a few other mysterious surprises around the corner (but who…and where…?). Invite your friends to this fun, interactive event, and let’s all have a spine-chilling good time!

Photos courtesy of the Schaeffer family and by Robin Sachs

From baby angels to Edgar Allen Poe, meet the DCT-born-and-raised author of The Raven Society!

Folks who know DCT might recognize Philip Schaeffer, or at least recognize his parents, Nancy and Karl Schaeffer, from the halls of the theater. We interviewed Philip about his DCT journey and of course, Poe. Read on…

What makes this show special? Why will DCT/Dallas audiences love it?

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is among greatest works in American literature, and The Raven Society presents a new way to experience this poem for the modern day.

Edgar Allan Poe

What do you appreciate most about Edgar Allen Poe?

Poe is a master of atmosphere, especially when it comes to the macabre. So naturally I’m a big fan!

Would you say you two have anything in common?

We both have strange hair styles.

You’ve performed in 18 DCT productions – that’s quite a number! What has been your favorite DCT production?

It is very hard to pick, but of shows I performed in, I’d have to say The Hound of the Baskervilles — the spookiest of Sherlock Holmes tales!

Philip and the Cast of GHOULS AND GRAVEYARDS

With Nancy and Karl as parents, we can appreciate how you got into theater. What led you to a particular interest in playwriting?

I’ve always loved reading a script and imagining what the production would be like, so writing my own plays to imagine seemed like a logical next step!

This will be your third Halloween show written for DCT, can you tell us a little bit about the difference between writing a scary show for children vs. for adults? Is there a difference?

There probably should be, but I don’t really change things very much. People of all ages enjoy scary stories after all.

left to right Grace, Judge and Philip

Besides the family connection, what do you think is special about the DCT experience?

DCT has always put a focus on imagination, creativity, and storytelling. Whether you’re watching a play, acting in one, or taking a class, you’re exercising a part of your mind that otherwise wouldn’t be used.

What have been the challenges associated with producing a Halloween show for a virtual audience?

Fortunately I only had to write it, so it’s up to the production team to actually make things work! But the main challenge on my end was finding a way to capture the feeling of the poem using a Zoom call as the storytelling format. Hopefully audiences will enjoy!

Mark your calendar now to watch Philip Schaeffer’s THE RAVEN SOCIETY starring DCT’s Teen Scene PlayersStreaming October 23-31
Ages 9 and up
Cost: As low as $10

dct.org/teen/digital

 


                                              Watch Party!

All ticket buyers will receive a link to join us Friday, October 30th at 7PM for THE RAVEN SOCIETY Watch Party, a virtual ghostly gathering hosted by the playwright, Philip Schaeffer, where we’ll watch and discuss clips from the show (recommended for ages 9 and up), talk to the cast & crew about how it was made, swap our favorite scary stories & legends (just like in summer camp!), and there may be a few other mysterious surprises around the corner (but who…and where…?). Invite your friends to this fun, interactive event, and let’s all have a spine-chilling good time!

Photos courtesy of Nancy Schaeffer and via Pixabay

DCT Friends, Please Raise Your Voice in Support of the Arts!

DCT Friends, we need your help! Right now, the arts is one of the vital sectors of our country in need of a lifeline.  Simply put, we need a hero.

In normal times, arts and culture accounts for 5.1 million jobs and 4.5% of the U.S. economy. If you’ve been touched by a play at Dallas Children’s Theater (DCT) or your child has benefited from one of our classes; or if you’re a teacher that loves a field trip to DCT or the parent of a child who’s experienced sensory-friendly classes and shows at DCT, please consider raising your voice in support of the future wellbeing and vibrancy of the creative economy.

The DAWN Act is a bill that would provide grants to organizations like DCT and the actors we employ to help address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our livelihoods and the in-person work we do. Reaching out to one of the Senators below would be a great way to cast a vote in support of arts organizations and the actors who make this work possible.

We know that many areas of our economy are suffering right now, and we just don’t want to be left out. That’s why we are reaching out to our most invested stakeholders with a request that you consider joining this nationwide effort in support of the arts.  Simply think about the impact the arts have had on your family’s life, what life would be like if we were not there and communicate that to:

The Honorable Ted Cruz The Honorable John Cornyn
US Senate US Senate
Washington, DC Washington, DC

Thank you,

Robyn, Artie, Nancy, Sandra

P.S.  We miss you all, and we look forward to seeing you at the theater again soon.  In the meantime, thanks so much for your support and for being an arts hero!

Photo Credits: Clarice Sayles, Lisel Simmons, and Lawrence Jenkins

Blue Pegasus Player (BPP) star shares memorable moments…

Maddie and her mom talk about their great moments at DCT!

Maddie (black boots) does her thing on the mainstage as part of NEXT STOP BROADWAY.

Each year, DCT’s musical theater students, directed by Education Director Nancy Schaeffer and Director of Musical Theater Doug Miller, grace the Baker Theater stage and regale audiences with a fun musical review. This year’s NEXT STOP BROADWAY performance included some very special guests. Four performers from the Blue Pegasus Players (BPP) program joined in on the fun! 

BPP began in 2016 as part of DCT’s sensory-friendly initiative. Described as “a creative dramatics program for young actors with unique minds, talents and imaginations”, BPP provides children with sensory processing disorders and special needs a dedicated space to experience the kind of drama education DCT is known for.

Maddie posing for photos with BBP classmates after one of their shows.

Many performers, like Maddie Raymond, have spent years with BPP and were ready to perform on the “big stage!”

“So, I was in “Warts and All”, which is a song from HONK which is a British play. I was a froglet. I had fun being a froglet. Everyone was super nice. I was in this big thing. But I felt like I fit in, like with my people. I love acting, I love the theater, I love to sing. And that was just really good. I felt like it was my atmosphere” said Maddie.

Maddie pictured with her mom, Camille

Maddie’s mom, Camille Raymond, also had a lot to say about Maddie’s involvement with NEXT STOP BROADWAY. “Oh, that was amazing! Just her energy and excitement…I’m going to admit that she was a very cute froglet, too. Maddie is highly functioning autistic and because of that, for the most part her biggest thing is just keeping her focused and feeling comfortable to do what she wants to do. I remember when she was [a] little girl, and she was excited about being here, and at that time it had never occurred to me that she could be a part of Dallas Children’s Theater. She could be on the big stage…and I am so glad to see that she is able to do things that we never thought was possible.”

Maddie seizing her Kodak moment, always.

Maddie and her fellow Blue Pegasus Players expressed their delight at being in the spotlight of the Baker Theater, where so many of DCT’s beloved shows have been performed

“Well, I always wanted to perform on the big stage, and, well, [I] got the shot, and…just…dream come true for me” said Palmer Lee, who has been with BPP since it first began.

When asked if she would choose to do this again, Maddie was quick to say “yes!” 

Maddie in her element in one of the BPP shows

“Actually, after the last NEXT STOP BROADWAY, I begged Mister Doug ‘You have to find a way for me to come back! You have to!’ I had so much fun.”

For decades Dallas Children’s Theater has been dedicated to providing an inspiring theater experience for all children, and continues to do so while expanding opportunities for children with special needs. Whether through sensory-friendly adapted professional performances or classes specifically designed for those with sensory needs to inclusion with the NEXT STOP BROADWAY performance, children with special needs are welcome to participate in what DCT does best!

Maddie sums it up perfectly:

“I had fun…but, just do your best at it…and, it’s OK to be different. I mean, I have been different all my life, and so…it’s ok to do that. This is a place where they say ‘You’re unique. Come to us’.”

Maddie among teachers and classmates at DCT

To learn more the sensory-friendly programs at DCT, please visit this page and this page.

Photos: Karen Almond, DCT staff, and courtesy of Camille Raymond

The power of creativity…

Memorable Moments at DCT: Busy mom Leah Mora tells her story.

Leah and Laurel Mora

We want to thank all of you who are taking the opportunity during these challenging times to share your DCT stories with us. Enjoy the perspective of yet another wonderful DCT Mom. Read on…

How did you originally come to know about DCT?

My family and I moved to Dallas and were interested in finding enrichment activities for our children. Dallas Children’s Theater was close to our new home, and I drove past it on numerous occasions, so I decided to look into their programming. I was delighted to find out that they not only offered multiple premier stage productions throughout the year, but also provided an array of wonderful classes for children. I signed mine up right away.

What is your most meaningful memory of Laurel at DCT?

The Mora Family

I am fortunate to have many great memories of Laurel at DCT, and it is a bit difficult to select only one. We have had the privilege of watching many great productions, and Laurel has participated in most of the classes offered at DCT, and she has truly benefitted from their engaging and professional instruction. She has also had lots of fun while learning. I thoroughly enjoyed her spooky portrayal of La LLorona in the Ghouls and Graveyards production, but my most meaningful memory was of Laurel performing in the Next Stop Broadway production. This was a moment when Laurel was able to be a part of a large production that celebrated all things musical theater. She loves the experience of performing on stage, and this production was a musical extravaganza.

What is valuable about taking your kid to a DCT production rather than watching a movie or TV?

The value of taking my children to a DCT production is being a part of a wonderfully creative process that we can experience together. DCT does a fantastic job of telling meaningful stories onstage that resonate with everyone. They are brave with the stories they select to perform and are inclusive and community oriented. The actors perform onstage but also throughout the entire theater giving audience members an opportunity to become truly engaged in real time. My son enjoyed this aspect of the performances. Audience members are immersed in a fun live experience that has the power to be educational and transformative. We felt this way watching Yana Wana’s Legend of the Bluebonnet.

The littlest Mora

What do you think is special about the DCT experience, and why do you continue to come back to productions?

It was evident from the moment I spoke to Terry who helped me sign Laurel up for her very first class at DCT that this organization was warm and centered around focusing on the individual. Every class that my children participated in had an instructor who cared about each and every individual child and did their best to bring out the best of their personality and nature onstage. DCT instructors engage students in a gentle and supportive manner that allows for each student to shine brightly. They meet the student where they are and encourage them to be their best. It was remarkable to me and a testament to DCT’s creative teachings.

We continue to come back to productions because DCT is a powerhouse of creativity and kindness and generosity to its community. All of the many productions that we have had the privilege of seeing told an important message and allowed for insightful family discussions. Productions are fun and entertaining and fill the soul. DCT takes pride in what they do and they do it very well!

Would you like to add anything else?

The Mora Family at DCT

I am very grateful for having discovered DCT because it has made a substantial impact in my family’s life. DCT has provided a wonderfully safe place for children and families to learn and grow and to be entertained by meaningful stories performed in a beautiful manner. DCT has personally fostered my daughter’s love for the performing arts and their instructors have helped her hone her craft over the years, so much so that she is pursuing a Theatre Arts – Playwriting education in New York. Thank you DCT!

Missed Laurel’s Memorable Moments? Catch up here!

Photos courtesy of Leah Mora