Nashville Children’s Theatre
Join NCT for its 90th altogether at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11. Guests will adore a host of aliment and fun, additional a appropriate achievement of The Elves and the Shoemaker. Apprentice added at nashvillechildrenstheatre.org
If you’ve anytime visited Nashville Children’s Theatre, you’ve acceptable apparent Bob Roberts — the active front-of-house and box appointment administrator — alive about with his accurate clipboard, answering questions, analogous advance ushers or allowance out at the commodity stand. As a child, Roberts generally abounding NCT shows on acreage trips, and he eventually came to assignment with the city’s oldest assuming arts academy in 2013. In 2020, Roberts completed his master’s apriorism at Belmont University on NCT’s history, accoutrement the years 1977-2019. (Previous theses by acceptance at added universities accurate the organization’s history above-mentioned to 1977.)
As NCT prepares to bless its 90th anniversary, Roberts batten with the Arena about what he learned, what afraid him most, and how NCT continues to affect bounded children.
I was absolutely abashed by aloof how altered the circadian operations looked in those aboriginal years. In the beginning, the Children’s Theatre was a absolutely volunteer-led organization, created by the Junior League of Nashville. We didn’t accept our aboriginal full-time agent until 1960, back Charles Doughty was assassin as NCT’s aboriginal aesthetic director. So in those aboriginal days, volunteers absolutely visited bounded schools, affairs division associates cards anon to the students. It was array of like a Scholastic Book Fair Day — volunteers visited the classroom, talked about the accessible shows, and at the age of 8 or 9, these kids became division canyon holders at the Children’s Theatre. It connected that way into the aboriginal 1980s, which aloof afraid me. And it was alone accessible because of this committed accumulation of volunteers. In its heyday, NCT had one of the best abundantly organized bounded abutment networks you could imagine, and it was admired nationally as a arrangement for added organizations to follow. The training manuals and regimens, advice protocols, accounting practices and added processes they developed — which accustomed a awful able amphitheater to action on about absolutely advance activity — were as adult as systems you’d acquisition in abode today in a lot of above civic corporations. This aggregation wasn’t aloof a amusement for these women — it was a calling, a assignment and a connected account to support.
Certainly the adherence to the kids was a constant. There’s consistently been a activity that all accouchement deserve to accept admission to top-quality able theater. I anticipate there’s consistently been that faculty of purpose — the why we do what we do. Another accepted affair was aloof how abundant bodies adulation it here. The belief and memories that beleaguer this abode are so amazing. About every distinct being I talked to batten of how advantageous or energizing, or aloof how fun the assignment was, and how it accomplished article aural them as artists and as people.
The Children’s Theatre has been a constant attendance in the bounded arts arena for the aftermost century, generally arch and abstraction the community. Back Charles Doughty created the company’s aboriginal apprenticeship program, he kick-started a accomplished new way to serve the community. In the ’70s, NCT helped affluence Nashville’s affiliation struggles by presenting shows during academy hours, and in the aboriginal ’90s they stepped up to awning the costs for kids who couldn’t allow those acreage cruise fees.
I additionally anticipate the accommodation to go able [NCT clearly affiliated with the Actors’ Equity Association in 1998] was significant. NCT accustomed that by announcement a stronger artisan community, they could advertise stronger art. If you attending at the corrective artery in the backstage alley [a abiding tradition, actors admire their time at NCT by signing/decorating alone bricks], or analyze the casting lists I’ve been reconstructing, it’s a actual who’s-who of Nashville amphitheater and beyond. Roger Bedard, one of the abundant avant-garde minds of children’s amphitheater approach and criticism, directed for us in the 1980s. The best playwrights — Charlotte Chorpenning, Sara Spencer, Moses Goldberg, Aurand Harris, Laurie Brooks, Max Bush, Idris Goodwin — accept premiered and/or workshopped plays at NCT. Actors and admiral angry to about every added Nashville amphitheater aggregation accept performed actuality — The Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s Denice Hicks and Donald Capparella, BroadAxe’s Jeremy Childs, Amun Ra’s jeff obafemi carr, Chaffin’s Barn’s Martha Wilkinson, Actors Bridge’s Vali Forrester, Wishing Chair’s Mary Tanner, all three aesthetic admiral of People’s Branch Theatre, Destiny Theatre Experience’s Shawn Whitsell, and of advance René Copeland of Mockingbird Public Theatre and Nashville Rep. All Nashville amphitheater anchorage advance to — or through — NCT.
Clockwise from Left: Alice in Wonderland (1983), Treasure Island (2004), Frankenstein (1989)
Another way that NCT has contributed, and absolutely the way all amphitheater contributes back it’s done well, is that it helps alpha important conversations and advance understanding. Abounding of NCT’s best works accept been the ones that advice audiences see a angle that’s altered from their own. Ramayana, in 1995, helped acceptance apprentice belief important in the Hindu religion. Best Valuable Player tackled racism by analytical the activity of Jackie Robinson. Mockingbird put an important focus on how activity is accomplished on the autism spectrum. Former apprenticeship administrator Martha Goodman’s groundbreaking ball class in the 1990s helped acceptance apprentice about Tennessee’s Cherokee citizenry up through the Trail of Tears, as able-bodied as the lives of Tennesseans during the Civil War. So abounding Nashville adults today were apparent both the apple about them, and their own history, in performances and classes at NCT.
Just the added day, I batten with addition about a division associates for her granddaughter and great-grandchild. The addition explained that she’d helped architecture apparel for NCT in the aboriginal 1960s, and was so blessed her great-grandchild would get to acquaintance art in the actual aforementioned amphitheater area she’d formed about 60 years ago. With all the changes that Nashville has undergone in contempo years — and alike beyond the aftermost 90 years — I feel like that simple action speaks volumes about the consistent, multigenerational ability and attendance of NCT, and about how an aesthetic academy can accord to a association over time.
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