By Joseph Pratt
March 9, 2014
A Greenup County theatrical troupe recently won the Kentucky Theatre Association (KTA) award for Outstanding Production of 2013. The group is under direction of Sarah Diamond Burroway and is called Actors for Children Theatre (ACT). Along with receiving an award of merit, they are being given the opportunity to go to Mobile, Alabama, this weekend, where they are performing at the South Eastern Theatre Conference (SETC).
The group is a newer troupe, being formed in the summer of 2012, which focuses on presenting art and extending the education curriculum through shows that they produce to students in grades K-12. The group will now compete with groups from ten eastern states.
“Actors for Children Theatre is a traveling troupe of adult actors who perform live theatre for child audiences,” Burroway explained. “We tour to schools, community centers, libraries, anywhere children and families are. Our mission is to bring live theatre to arts underserved children in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, the Appalachia communities of the tri-state.”
Their production of “A Thousand Cranes” is what won for 2013 Outstanding Production and is based on the novel Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. The nonfiction story was published in 1977 by American author Eleanor Coerr. The novel has been used by peace education programs in telling the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who survived the bombing of Hiroshima, only to fall ill from radiation and develop leukemia.
All shows that ACT produces have a deep root in children’s literature. The shows that they’ve done thus far are The Emperor’s New Clothes, A Thousand Cranes and they are now rehearsing for A Gift-Bear for the King. Burroway said that they not only extend out to literacy, but also historic lessons, as seen in A Thousand Cranes, which is set in Japan, immediately following World War II.
“I think we are filling a void in our community of the tri-state. A lot of school districts and community centers don’t have resources to transport children to a theatre,” Burroway said. “More and more schools are seeing their arts budget cut. It is a hard financial time and we are a little more manageable on the expense side for school districts to afford. We are less and one-third the cost of to her traveling troupes that work locally.”
Burroway also stated that the fact that her troupe travels is also a large benefit for schools, since the school doesn’t have to pay or spend time transporting their students to a venue for a show, they save time and money. A theatrical production is as close as a walk down the hall and into the school gymnasium.
In an effort to instill meaning and education in the students they visit, ACT also leaves teachers with instructional packets and a curriculum that is based off the theme of their production. The packets include pre-show activities and post-show lessons that the teachers have the option to include in their classroom. The packets are put together using common core state standards by teachers and professors, so they are designed by reputable sources in education.
The young theatre company had never been to KTA or any sort of competitive outlet before and Burroway explained that she just wanted to go, give it their all and prove how hard the group has been working.
“I think it validates what we do as artists and actors,” Burroway stated. “It is definitely an honor.”
ACT is currently preparing for their spring show, “A Gift-Bear for the King,” which is aimed towards an elementary audience. The show is based off the novel by the same name, by author Carl Memling, in 1966. The show is written as an adaption by Burroway. Burroway has contacted Penguin, the publishing company who owns the rights, and has been granted permission to produce a show based on the classic children’s tale. ACT is the first company to ever perform the story as a play.
“It is really a story of hope,” Burroway explained. “A large number of the kids we serve are on free or reduced lunch, upwards to 80-85 percent. So, we do have a lot of children who are living in poverty in our audiences. The message in Gift-Bear is that you don’t need to have a lot of material wealth to be valuable as a person. Our worth is how we share our gifts and talents to help those in our community.”
More information on Actors for Children Theatre can be found at www.facebook.com/ActorsForChildrenTheatre. Anyone interested in booking the company can call Sarah Burroway at 606-922-2903.
Joseph Pratt can be reached at Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 287 or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.