THE SAVANNAH Children’s Theater, a staple in the local arts community, is starting their season off with a classic – performing Dr. Seuss’ Cat In The Hat with the theater's first-ever adult cast. The long-running theater has been known to tackle Dr. Seuss' work in the past, and has also staged a variety of shows that include Willy Wonka, The Crucible, and Monty Python's Spamalot. We spoke to director Jenn Doubleday and star Will Wright – who will be portraying the titular character - ahead of the show's opening performance.
Tell me a bit about how the theater started.
JD: We started in 2004, with just a small band of kids doing theater classes after school. Then we added a field trip program and shows for kids to perform on weekends. And now, finally, we're adding shows for adults to perform as well. This is our first ever stage show with grown-ups.
I think there are a lot of reasons why Dr. Seuss' work continues to resonate, but what in particular made you feel like Cat In The Hat was something that you could bring to the Children's Theater stage?
JD: Well, who doesn't love Dr. Seuss? Our entire season that we chose this year is all based on creative play. We want to remind parents that, "You don't need an app for that." We want them to be able to come here and see these live productions and then take that home with them. We want them to realize that you can have that theatrical experience off the stage just as well as you can here.
This show has some really great audience participation moments and interactive play moments. We hope they can take those home with them!
Will, how did you get into theater and what brought you to the Children’s Theater here in Savannah?
WW: I've been acting since sixth grade, when I made my debut, and then I minored in theater in college. I taught High School theater for two years in Omaha, Nebraska, and loved it! I moved out here with my wife and thought this would be a good chance to get back into acting. And they took me, thankfully [laughs].
What do you think are the values that kids take the most from a theater experience?
JD: I think that when you're invited to a theater performance at a young age, it's a very empowering experience. For kids to be inches away from these actors, it gives them the idea that they can do it too. And when they see other kids performing on stage they think, 'Hey, they're the same age as me! I can do that too.' So we just really hope that they come and take this play home with them. We want them to play Cat In The Hat in their living room and mess up the house – and clean it up when they're done. We teach life skills, and theater is the tool that we use to teach it.
WW: For me, it was always about the community. It was a place I felt wanted and needed, and I saw that in my students when I taught. People can come together and create something, and it bonds people together. Sure, you can get that in sports and other activities, but the community and the vibrancy of people who are attracted to theater is like nothing else.
What can people do to support the theater aside from just going to shows?
JD: We're a nonprofit, so we like to ask people to give up their time, or their talents, or their treasures! If they'd like to volunteer, we have so many opportunities. All of the actors and crew are volunteers. And if you don't want to be in the spotlight, you can be in the box office or the concession stand. We also have an annual fund that people can contribute to, so we can stay in this wonderful building and continue offering these programs.