DREAMCOAT! The Joy is Contagious
Created September 28, 2010 by Donna McTiernan
For 11 years, Dreamcoat Fantasy Theatre has embarked on a theatrical adventure each fall with about 80 children from grades 3-8. We use a no-fail recipe created from an interesting collection of ingredients. We begin with the children in various colours, sizes, from a variety of backgrounds, and with a wide range of experience. Some have very special needs. We then add several scoops of creative thinking and problem solving and stir in ample amounts of singing, dancing, script-reading, listening, speaking, acting, learning, and having fun. Gently, we blend in hundreds of community volunteer hours donated by parents, grandparents, and friends. Finally, we fold in a producer, director, stage manager, artists, set and costume designers, choreographers, musicians, sewers, sound and light technicians, and sponsors. We simmer 3 times a week for about 3 months.
What do we get? **Community Impact!**
Dreamcoat Fantasy Theatre’s fall children’s production is in rehearsal for 3 months prior to December. Then early in January, about 4500 school children from the surrounding community are bused in to see the performance in a theatre setting. For many of these children it is a first experience being in a theatre or seeing a live performance. The excitement of the experience is felt both by the thespians and the audience participants. Following a performance, children debrief the experience with their teachers, and many are already expressing a keen interest in getting involved. Back at the theatre, when a show closes, the hugs and happy tears fuel a renewed enthusiasm to continue with theatre. The joy is contagious. The longevity and sustainability of the program are natural outcomes of the theatrical experience. By March, many newcomers have become part of a smaller scale spring production. The spring show is designed to give smaller groups of children a chance to “test the water” and experience performing in a school auditorium. By summer, another small-scale show is produced that will be performed at the community waterfront as part of summer festival.
The spring and summer shows engage high school students who bring prior theatrical experience. Many are former “Dreamcoat Kids”. They become mentors and assistants to the younger ones. They bring experience, energy, creativity, and enthusiasm to every facet of the organization. They begin by attending rehearsals, helping with choreography, or designing and painting sets. Many progress to leadership roles of directing, stage managing, arranging choreography, designing and implementing lighting and sound, or playing a musical instrument in the accompanying band. These opportunities provide real-life work experience and an exciting new dimension to their classroom learning, particularly for students in the secondary schools Special High Skills Major Program. Their eagerness to share their skills and love of theatre arts helps to sustain Dreamcoat.
It’s not only high school students who “catch” the love of theatre through involvement with Dreamcoat. Several years ago, grandparents, parents, and other members of the community began promoting the idea of a Dreamcoat family show – children sharing the stage with adults, sometimes their own parents. That idea quickly gained momentum. As a result, Dreamcoat has staged several family productions such as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, and Oliver.
Dreamcoat has always welcomed children with special needs. This too forged strong community ties and led to the staging of a unique show, Razzle Dazzle, which found adults from the Association of Community Living on stage with Dreamcoat kids. It was an inspiring experience for everyone involved and created lasting memories.
Dreamcoat Fantasy Theatre is a registered charity. A Board of Directors, all volunteers, oversees the program ensuring financial stability of this non-profit program and overseeing its growth into a well recognized healthy activity for children. The program is funded by registration fees, ticket sales, fund-raising events, and donations.
What would change if a financial award is offered to Dreamcoat by The Aviva Community Fund?
• The lives of children involved in a Dreamcoat production will change in ways that are difficult to measure. We have all seen, first hand, countless small miracles – the timid child suffering from social alienation and low self-esteem taking small steps toward friendship, beginning to demonstrate confidence, summoning the courage to speak a line, and glowing through the final performances, autographing programs for elated relatives, and signing up for the next production.
• We would replenish a contingency fund to assist families experiencing financial challenges and to support children with special needs.
• The stress of financial burden would be lifted paving the way for much-needed improvements. With the costs of show production steadily increasing, we lack the resources to enhance the sound and lighting equipment, to provide working microphones or sewing machines, or to build stage extensions that would solve our space challenges. The size of our present stage is limiting. Improved lighting and sound equipment will allow for more creative sound and visual effects. We also need a proper curtain.
• The lives of hundreds of children and their families would continue to be enriched. We have grown into a well-recognized theatre company for children in Northern Ontario. People drive from distant places around our province to see our children perform. Dreamcoat would continue to introduce children to live theatre, to develop their self confidence and ability to work as team players, to encourage them to commit to achieving a common goal, to foster a celebration of differences, and in the long run, to become contributing citizens of the world.