Harnessing the Power of the Arts to Engage, Entertain, and Inspire
During the Educational Theatre Collaborative’s production of Peter Pan this year, Peter flew out over the audience at the end of the show.
And each night, the audience erupted. But for artistic director Trish Lindberg, who co-founded ETC with Dan Perkins and who continues to foster this labor of love, the highlight for her was watching the eyes of the children in the audience light up as they were carried away by the retelling of this classic story. “It was a magical moment,” she says.
The cast of Peter Pan ranged in age from 8 to 63 and this was by design. “From the beginning, we wanted to engage and involve children, teens, PSU college students, faculty and staff, and adults in the greater Plymouth community,” says Lindberg, who is a professor of education and the M.Ed. integrated arts program coordinator at PSU.
Lindberg and Perkins, a professor in PSU’s Music, Theatre, and Dance Department, created the collaborative 17 years ago because they saw the potential of an intergenerational musical theatre organization to enrich both college and community life. “ETC is a wonderful way to blend community and the arts, a place where everyone is valued and given an opportunity to shine,” Lindberg says. “I am very grateful to the many individuals who work so hard, together, to make ETC a reality.”
In January every year, ETC—sponsored by PSU’s College of Graduate Studies, Plymouth Elementary School, and Friends of the Arts—puts on a major musical theatre production in under three weeks, performing at PSU’s Silver Center for the Arts with a cast of between 60-110 members. Nearly as soon as the final curtain falls, Lindberg and others begin working on the next year’s production. Perkins has since moved on to other projects.
That work involves selecting and then securing the rights to produce the show or scriptwriting and composing if it is an original production, working with artists and designers to create the show logo and promotional materials, hiring set, lighting, sound and costume designers and student production staff, and, of course, casting the performers.
There are countless volunteers who work to make ETC a reality, as well as PSU employees in the Silver Center, at the College of Graduate Studies, and in PSU’s Business Office and Office of Public Relations. Says Lindberg: “Many, many people’s hands touch ETC and they all deserve equal credit for any success we enjoy.”
In addition to producing the musical, ETC also hosts an educational Integrated Arts Conference for teachers and a Children’s Arts Festival. “The aim of ETC is to involve as many individuals as possible, both on and off stage,” Lindberg notes.
The Integrated Arts Conference provides educators with the opportunity to enter into the world of the play and learn ways of using the arts in their classrooms. The participants attend the production together and leave the conference with a teacher resource book full of ideas on how to integrate themes of the play into curriculum, which is created by a PSU graduate student. “The Integrated Arts Conference allows us to potentially impact 2,000 additional students through the work the teachers do in their classrooms following the conference,” Lindberg says. Teachers can also earn graduate credit for attending the conference by completing additional coursework in their classrooms.
The Children’s Arts Festival allows children to experience the magic of a play from behind the scenes. Children in grades K-6 come to the Silver Center and experience a variety of art forms integrated into themes of the production. Wonderful guest teachers share their knowledge with the children throughout the day. A backstage tour and special performance at the end of the day complete this exciting arts-filled experience. “Families leave smiling and happy,” Lindberg notes. “It is a wonderful way to bring many more children into the process, as children need to be eight years old before they can audition for the cast.”
In this year’s ETC production, Lindberg says the actor who portrayed Peter Pan, PSU Music, Theatre, and Dance Junior Sam Tolley, exemplified what ETC is all about.
“He was an amazing role model to the younger actors and worked tirelessly to make Peter Pan come alive for the children in our audiences,” Lindberg says “In the lobby, he spent countless time posing for pictures, giving and getting hugs, and signing autographs.
Long-time colleague and friend of Lindberg’s Robb Dimmick is also an integral part of making ETC happen each year. As a co-producer and often an actor (He played Hook in Peter Pan), Dimmick works behind the scenes on the conference and festival. He also coordinates with area teachers to put together the lobby art display that showcases children’s artwork.
“Robb understands ETC and the important goals we have to connect community,” Lindberg says. “He gives me much support throughout the ETC process and touches many individuals in the process. We are all fortunate to have him involved.”
ETC is an intergenerational project with the goal of bringing the entire community together to experience the arts. Through theatre, music, visual arts and dance, the community joins together to share in a story unfolding onstage, to view artwork created by children and to learn from exciting guest artists. From original musical theatre like ETC’s Pollyanna (soon to be published by Dramatic Publishing, Inc.) to classic music theatre such as this year’s Peter Pan, ETC shows over and over again the amazing power of the arts to engage, entertain and inspire.
And that is the magic of the Educational Theatre Collaborative.