Giving Youngsters the Tools to Lead Meaningful Lives
Since its first performance in June, 2012, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Stage of Life Theater (SoL) has provided a nurturing stage for Roaring Fork Valley children.
When founder Logan Carter started SoL five years ago, she saw theater’s role as more than dazzling productions and limelight.
“(A child’s) character offstage,” she feels, “is more important than their character on stage. Who they are inside is ultimately more important than what they do onstage. So that’s really the ‘soul’ of SoL Theater…We believe it’s about making children better people. It’s about pushing everybody to their limits and encouraging them to be the best person they could be, and not just the best performer they can be. It’s about giving these kids and a community and a family that could change their life.”
In its production of plays and summer camps, SoL hopes to encourage our youths’ development, with a mission that helps “children and young adults expand their self-concept; inspires them to lead by example; and educates them to build the social and emotional tools in order to live meaningful lives through the use of theatrical training and production in a fun, safe and supportive setting.”
One of SoL’s core values is to empower youth to grow with integrity.
Anakeesta Ironwood, who is 12, has been with SoL for several years, through innumerable performances. This summer’s production of “Annie Get Your Gun”, in which she played the lead role of Annie Oakley, illuminated the impact SoL has had on her through the years. “Ever since I started doing productions with SoL, I have grown as a performer and a person. At my age,” she acknowledges, “I’m still figuring out what kind of a person I want to be. And with the amazing role models and mentors I’ve found through theater, I’ve learned so much.”
Anakeesta’s mom, Asha Ironwood, a confessed stage mother to both Anakeesta and older brother Sage, shares SoL’s values, particularly those that encourage family support and participation in theatre.
“When my kids were 4 and 7,” says Asha, “I brought them to their first audition for a local musical. I told them if they didn’t love it, I wouldn’t push them to do any more shows. It’s been 7 years since then, and, dozens and dozens of productions later, they are both headed towards theatrical professions. I always knew that no matter what they did in their lives, having a background in theater will be a good foundation. Theater training teaches them self-confidence, communication skills, team-building and how to be in relationship, both onstage and off.”
SoL summer camps, a hit every summer, offer an entry point to curious children and families.
In this summer’s sold-out camp productions of “Cinderella” and “The Jungle Book,” kids of all types and stripes were treated to yet another SoL core value of “instilling a standard of performance excellence.” Kids’ mornings were filled with rehearsals. Their afternoons then took all those experiences into the classroom for refinement, exploring stage presence, improvisation, stage movement, and music.
Carbondalian Ayla Cuseo participated in “The Jungle Book.” As an avid naturalist enthralled with creatures and imaginary realms, Cuseo found that diving into the world of Mowgli, Baloo, Bagheera and Shere Khan provided an adventure beyond belief.
Adds her mother, Erin, “It was a great environment for my 7-year old. The wide variety of games and activities kept her engaged and entertained. All the instructors are supportive and know how to work with each child’s skills to strengthen the group.” By the end of the day, Ayla was what what every mom wants: tired, happy and excited.
From Aspen to Carbondale, the Roaring Fork Valley has a long-standing history of presenting and appreciating the arts, including arts for young people. SoL Theater prioritizes making it happen for all kids, from all backgrounds, with varying skill levels. True to their core values of making SoL accessible and affordable, they do offer scholarships to help get more kids on stage.
Curious for your own children? Visit their website, SolTheatreCompany.org, and their Facebook Page. Click on their wonderfully-produced video link, “Who We Are” to explore how your family can join the cast.