Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Get to Help Change Lives

This time of year is a hectic one for me, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. My "day job" at Heritage Schools, Inc. keeps me very busy throughout the year with fundraising, marketing, and more.  Heritage is a nonprofit residential treatment center for youth ages 12-17 who have severe emotional and psychiatric issues. 

Tired after a long dress rehearsal
Because I'm more of an office person, I don't get to work with the students much.  The one time I do get to know them is when we put on our musical productions.  We bring in theater professionals to direct and choreograph the show, design and create the sets and costumes, and provide the technical needs of the show. Every student who auditions gets a part - some of our shows have had casts of 60-70 in a show meant for 20.  As much as we try to select the best kid for each part, we are also looking for the right part for each kid. 

There are months of rehearsals preparing to perform for the public.  Along the way, some kids want to quit because they are frustrated or tired, feel uncoordinated, or even because their family won't be coming to see them perform. We talk them into toughing it out a little longer. Rehearsals can create a lot of stress, triggering some problems with their illnesses. It's definitely a challenge to do a production where every member of the cast has some sort of serious problem - ADHD, major depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, schizophrenia, Asperger's, Tourette's, etc. 

Where do I fit into this?  I'm one of those people in the background that takes care of things so things go smoothly.  I used to handle all the ticket sales. Fortunately, we have more help with that now. Coordinating the rehearsal schedule keeps me busy, especially with all the other activities on our campus. I've spent time assisting the play's director during rehearsals and I am backstage during performances to help with costume changes, props, and emergencies. A few years ago, I became responsible for putting the playbill and the poster together. 

I have watched so many miracles happen on our stage.  Performing arts provides amazing opportunities - the chance to step outside of your own life, getting to be someone else, learning to work as a team and trust the people around you.  I have seen kids with schizophrenia learn to ignore the voices in their head so they can perform. Kids with Tourette's have learned to work their tics into their parts and the other students will even surround them so the audience doesn't notice. Some have taken courage from their characters and learned to overcome paralyzing anxiety or even traumatic memories of being assaulted.  I get to hug them when they're nervous or scared and have cried with them when they feel lonely or uncared for. They tell us how doing the play changed or even saved their lives. 

West Side Story
In the end, all the work is worth it.  I put in some very late nights to create this year's poster for "The Wiz."  There are some long hours ahead of me to create the playbill, too.  We go all out in the playbill with photos of every student and a product that rivals Broadway. It's one of the most fulfilling things I do.  By the end of the show, I feel like I'm the mom to dozens of teenagers.

If you're in the Utah County area, I hope you can be in our audience.  I'm still looking for sponsors and advertisers for the playbill as well.  Your ad would reach 1,500 to 2,000 people and would be used beyond just the production dates (we use them as marketing pieces).  Check out the Facebook page for this event or Heritage's blog post for more info about getting tickets to the show or purchasing an advertisement in the playbill.

1 mad comments:

Mama Melly said...

Wow! The talent, drive, and love behind so many Etsy shop owners continues to amaze me.

Keep up with all of your awesomeness!

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