Did you know Nashville Children’s Theatre was formed in 1931 by the Junior League as an amateur theatre? Then, during the height of Nashville’s desegregation of schools, NCT was asked to consider programming during school hours so children would have a common space to explore common interests. Eventually, NCT became a professional company to serve that need.Nashville Children’s Theatre artistic director Scot Copeland shared the theatre’s mission with me: “NCT’s professional identity was forged at the forefront of the American child drama movement, which focuses on the child as the most important aspect of two separate but related efforts to engage the healthy development of children utilizing drama as a tool. Our main stage focuses on providing an extraordinary artistic product for the child audience by maintaining very high professional standards that are best served with the trained, professional imagination. Our second focus is on engaging children in a creative, dramatic process towards the service of their personal development. We try to keep our process with children separate from our product for children so that we never put a child in the position of becoming a product. This distinction is at the core of our mission.”
Can we look forward to new plays being developed for children’s theatre as well as adult?
“For a number of reasons, audiences are galloping headlong toward the familiar, and the literature of the field is galloping to catch up. We’re dealing with the same trends that have resulted in Broadway houses being heavily occupied with musical adaptations of familiar films, but our sources are primarily literary. As a field, we’re producing mostly adaptive material across the board, and, unfortunately, there is less and less support for the strikingly original mind. One of our ongoing institutional challenges is to build audience trust by bringing artistic originality to the familiar so that some of the audience will occasionally walk with us towards the mysteries of the unfamiliar.”
NCT is most certainly a crown jewel of the Nashville theatre community. What are some of the other programs that make it so outstanding?
“With professional productions, classes, and camps for children, we do our best to have the highest caliber of programming that serves our mission six days a week for eleven months out of the year. What makes us special is that we do that with the benefit of the child as our prime directive in all things. For us, children are more important than . . . well, than us.”
Scot, talk about some of your classic NCT moments.
“Creative collaboration with extraordinary talents provides for me a life filled with a stunning succession of special moments. I’d rather be in a rehearsal hall with like-minded actors digging at the work than anywhere else on earth, and I am very, very lucky that I get to work with so many great talents. Nashville is blessed with an embarrassment of riches in the capabilities of our finest actors. NCT’s acting corps is built on some long-standing collaborative relationships, and it is always a joy to tackle the work in the fellowship of actors who you know will bring their finest, most respectful efforts to an audience of children. It is also a joy to work with a new actor within that company for the first time and watch that actor get it. Mounting a production like Charlotte’s Web with a company that includes an actor like Brian Webb Russell (who has worked on our stage for over twenty years) and with a gifted newcomer like Amanda Card-McCoy is classic.”
by Jim Reyland | photography by Dan Brewer
If you haven’t been to an NCT production, treat the entire family to a wonderful theatrical experience during NCT’s impressive 2010-2011 season of new and old favorites: Bud, Not Buddy Sept. 28–Oct. 17, 2010; Seussical ™ Nov. 2–Dec. 19, 2010; Jason and the Golden Fleece Jan. 18–Feb. 6, 2011; Goodnight Moon (regional premiere!) Feb. 22–April 3, 2011; Robin Goodfellow April 19–May 22, 2011; Jack’s Tale June 10–26, 2011, book by Scot Copeland, music by Paul Carrol Binkley. For ticket information go to www.nashvillechildrenstheatre.org.
Jim Reyland is a playwright and producing artistic director of Writer’s Stage Theatre. His new play A Terrible Lie will receive a fully staged workshop, directed by Barry Scott, October 18 through November 21, 2010 at Writer’s Stage/The Next Level, 1008 Charlotte Avenue. www.writersstage.com