Community theatre is “the great equalizer.”
Terry Powell, the program specialist and artistic director of Athens Creative Theatre, has made the non-profit community theatre house all-inclusive and a “family-welcomed atmosphere” in her nearly 12 years of working there.
“Everybody pays my paycheck,” says Powell, since ACT is a program of the Athens Clarke County Leisure Service Department’s Art Division. In turn, she says that she feels a responsibility and desire to work with all demographics, including the cognitively challenged, the elderly and children.
“Monologues & More!” is one of ACT’s programs that works with individuals with disabilities on basic theatre skills.
“‘Monologues & More!’ gives participants programs that help in exploring emotional responses and communication skills through skits and theatre exercises,” says theatre assistant Daniel Self. Several participants from “Monologues & More!” go on to audition and be cast in ACT’s main stage productions, a true testament to the theatre’s all-encompassing mentality. Last year, the Georgia Parks and Recreation Association chose “Monologues & More!” as the Therapeutic Section’s Innovative Program.
“We don’t keep barriers on the main-stage productions,” says Powell, remembering one particular boy from “Monologues & More!” who ended up acting in three main-stage productions.
During the production of “The Wizard of Oz” in 2012, she says she added many more munchkins than originally planned, with the purpose of catering to families and including children and parents alike. Consequently, 14 families participated in the play.
Powell says that she originally became involved with ACT as a mother of three daughters who participated in community theatre. She started volunteering and realized she wanted to be even more immersed. Before becoming program specialist, she worked as the theatre’s assistant for two years. Ever since, she says that she has been getting her hands into everything from the lighting of shows to scenery art.
In addition to working full-time at ACT, Powell is a published playwright, investigative author and CEO of Brownstone Literary Works Publishing, LLC, writing under the pen name T.A. Powell. She is currently continuing her studies in investigative forensics.
“Theatre is like therapy to me,” says Powell, referencing her busy life outside of ACT and finding refuge in her passion for theatre.
Powell says that one of her most memorable experiences at ACT occurred during the production of “Peter Pan” in 2008. She hired an aerial choreographer to train the principal actors for the flying scenes in “Peter Pan.” “When we see Peter Pan fly in for the first time... I have goosebumps!”
Other faculty members of ACT bear witness to the magic that community theatre can create. Jeremy Miller, equipment specialist, says, “Theatre is a positive outlet for the community participants as well as the community members that come see the shows. It's a great environment for fun, education and sharing experiences. In this day in age where people spend a lot of times in front of TVs and computers, it's just a good place and opportunity for people to just spend time together.”
ACT’s next show, “Live Art ‘Tony Award Winning Musicals,’” will feature songs from “Matilda the Musical,” “Light in the Piazza,” “Jane Eyre the Musical,” “Into the Woods” and many more. The musical revue will run from April 24 to April 27 at Quinn Hall. Go to ACT’s website, http://www.athensclarkecounty.com/642/Athens-Creative-Theatre, for more details.
Terry Powell says that Athens Creative Theatre welcomes participants of all ages. “Theatre doesn’t have to be a phase. You can always go back.”