Bartol Grantee Spotlight: Enchantment Theatre Company
Photo credit: enchantmenttheatre.org.
As part of an ongoing Q&A series, we will be getting to know the Bartol Foundation’s 2018 grantees. Enchantment Theatre Company has created original theatre for young audiences and families for more than 35 years, and inspires children to “dream, explore, think, and connect through imaginative storytelling onstage and in the classroom.” They received a $5,000 Bartol grant to support their theatre residency at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.
These questions were answered by Sara Nye, Communications and Development Manager, and Jennifer Blatchley Smith, Artistic Director – Literary and Education.
When do you know your work is making a difference?
Sara: A crucial part of Enchantment Theatre’s Arts in Education Program is our in-school theatre residencies, in which two teaching artists teach a group of approximately 15-20 students over the course of several months. Time and again, we hear stories from our teaching artists about the moment when a particular residency student went from being hesitant or shy to becoming comfortable enough with expressing themselves that they tried a new skill or overcame a challenge. That is when I know we are making a difference in the lives of these children. That we are enabling them to be better communicators and collaborators is one of the program results of which I’m most proud.
What is the most important thing you do to help your teaching artists do their best work?
Jennifer: Yearly teaching artist retreats certainly help us do our best work. These retreats get everyone together in one room to share ideas, revisit the theatre modes we use in the classroom, plan for the year ahead, and inspire one another.
What is the best tip you can give to someone doing arts education programs like yours?
Jennifer: Be prepared but be flexible. Taking the time to listen and adapting to the unexpected can be the best learning experience for everyone—school administrators and teachers, arts organization staff, and teaching artists alike.
What is your favorite field trip? (Real or imagined.)
Sara: My favorite field trip is when our Enchantment actors bring an Enchantment Everywhere regional touring production into one of our partner schools. It’s a great way to continue our connection with the students currently engaged in a theatre residency at that school. It’s like a field trip in reverse—we get to come to you!
Share a book you read that changed how you think about your work.
Sara: I recently read Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. This book, which won the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott Honor, reminded me to be a witness for what I think is important in life. It reminded me that our in-school theatre residencies bring so many benefits to a student, and that we need to continue to be a witness for all of them. Here are just a few:
- They bring literature alive. Each residency performs a play based on an existing story. 2. They teach social skills. Working on a collaborative project like producing a play for friends and family enables kids to practice skills like communication and compromise.
- They are fun! Play is so important to a child’s development.