First 5 Lex Partner Spotlight: Lexington Children’s Theatre
We are in the midst of a blog series to show appreciation for our community partners and supporters! Today, we are going to TALK with Jeremy, the Producing Artistic Director at the Lexington Children’s Theatre. To learn more about the Lexington Children’s Theatre, click here.
Let’s learn more about the Lexington Children's Theatre in our question and answer session with Jeremy!
Can you talk about your role with the Lexington Children’s Theatre, and what a typical day may look like for you?
Is there such a thing as a typical day? My role has recently changed. For the past 19 years, I served as the Education Director, but as of January I am the Producing Artistic Director. Now my job is really about keeping the art moving forward and creating artistic experiences for young people, which I think is really important. Another aspect is figuring out how we can continue to serve during a global pandemic when we can’t gather like we used to.
Can you tell us about the Lexington Children’s Theatre community outreach? What role do you play in the community?
People primarily know us for the productions we do, but we actually do a number of things. We do shows that use local young people in them, but also shows with professional actors. Our job is to bring a quality arts experience to young people to get them exposed to what the arts can do for them and help them develop as citizens in this world. During Covid, we’ve been doing this more virtually. We produce content to send out and have been doing our storyteller series, which consists of smaller stories that are focused on people of color.
For Women’s History Month, we are running “On the Shoulders of Women”, where we took a look at women in politics and their right to vote over the past 150 years or so, starting with Sojourner Truth and working all the way to modern times. The last project we’re doing is in partnership with the “I Was Here” project that happens downtown, where there are portraits of ancestor spirits around significant places in downtown Lexington where African Americans were affected by our history. We have written monologues to bring some of the voices out from those pictures, and we’re going to be filming those and sharing them with our young people as well.
How do your programs align with First 5’s values? / Why was partnering with First 5 Lex a logical fit?
About 3 or 4 years ago, I heard a statistic that really struck me. Less than 50% of young people in Lexington are ready for kindergarten. That’s when we at Lexington Children’s Theatre started being more proactive in creating experiences for children in the 0-5 age range. We created a program called “Theatre for the Very Young”, which is an interactive theatre for very young people, ages 3 to 5 at this point. They get to come in and participate and work with the actors to tell the story.
One of these shows that are currently in process is called “Circle and Square”, which is about a circle and square who have to learn how to get along. Square is very OCD and likes things to be specific and orderly, while Circle does not. Because the show is for young people, the only words the actors could say are “circle” and “square” and they had to use inflection to tell the rest of the story. The whole point of the story is to teach young people about how to become friends and understand each other’s differences, which young people can really understand. That’s one of the things we are always thinking about - how to teach socialization, sharing and kindness to each other. A lot of our programs are working on that.
We start classes at age four. In our creative drama classes, we take a story and bring it to life with art, drama and dance. In our stories with that age group, everyone plays the protagonist/main character. We’re not interested in having just one Cinderella or Cinderfella, because everyone should participate. The teacher will guide them through the story, usually in a role (I make a great fairy godmother) and then everybody acts it out and creates art projects to help tell the story. It’s important for us to engage their imagination and help them live inside the story.
How long has the Lexington Children’s Theatre been a part of the First 5 community team?
We’ve been a part of the team since the beginning - remember being at the kickoff press event. We’ve been trying to continue to find ways to partner with First 5 Lex and support their mission. Kids, imagination and literacy all go together for us.
Why do you think the First 5 message- to read, talk and play with little ones each day- is so important?
It’s all important! I think language acquisition, socialization, learning to focus, linear activity and empathy are so important. Reading, talking and playing all equals learning in a lot of ways. Obviously at LCT, “Play” is very important to us. We tell stories, and the more young people can look outside themselves and look at other people’s circumstances the more it builds that empathy and socialization that is so important for when they get to school.
Parents need to be engaged with their young people every day and need to help them grow to be good citizens as they move forward. I think screens can be great, but they are also a challenge because they don’t allow us to socialize and have cognitive thought processes. We’re just taking in information and not really processing it. When you talk to your young person, you get to hear how their brain is working and how they make connections. The thing I love about the word “Play” is that it puts it all together for me. It puts the cognitive thought, word acquisition and imagination together into that. Ultimately, playing is so important because it’s a culmination of all those other factors.
In your opinion, what positive change has First 5 Lex made in the community?
Awareness is important, and First 5 Lex continues to make parents aware that we have to give attention to these things. If we don’t, our children are not going to be prepared for school, empathetic, or ready to work with others. I think that’s why it’s so important and why we need to make sure that message gets out to our community.
How do you hope to continue to partner with First 5 in the future?
I see a lot of opportunities for us to continue our partnership. I would love to see us as a community coalesce even more towards this age group because we really need to stress the importance of these factors when it comes to brain development, socialization and emotional development. We all know that, so I think it would be great for the library, school system, and arts organizations to come together and create activities for our families to come and enjoy and help our young people learn.
Just for fun:
What is your favorite children’s book to READ?
What Do You Do With a Chance? is my favorite one at the moment, but we’ve also read The Grinch Who Stole Christmas a lot. Go, Dog. Go! was a very popular book in my household when my son was younger. I believe that reading a picture book a day as an adult is an important thing.
If you have an afternoon with nothing scheduled, how would you PLAY?
I’d probably be outside with my son tossing a ball, visiting a park, catching bugs, gardening or chasing dogs. We love to be outside and running around. He keeps me young because I have to keep up with him!
If you could TALK with one person, from the past or present, who would it be, and what would you ask them?
It’s hard to pick just one! I would want to sit down with Martin Luther King, Einstein or Amanda Gorman, the poet who read at the presidential inauguration.
Thank you to Jeremy and everyone at the Lexington Children’s Theatre who is teaching and encouraging our little ones to have fun while learning!
“I hope that people see the Lexington Children’s Theatre as a place they can come not only to get some entertainment, but to also aid in the development of young people. We are working diligently to make sure we are being inclusive in our storytelling and have diversity on our stages so that we are a part of our community and the community feels like it’s a part of us. It’s interesting to me how many people in Lexington don’t know about us, and I think that’s a shame and want that to change. So we’re working on developing some things and going out to work with the community a bit more. So those are some exciting things for us.”
- Jeremy Kisling