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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. 2/25/21 - Tuscaloosa Children’s Theatre kicks off its 35th year with the premiere of a new virtual musical The Show Must Go Online!
The show will premiere March 6 at 6 p.m. CST on TCT’s website. The performance is being provided free of charge in honor of TCT’s founders and history as a community organization open to all.
“This is our gift to Tuscaloosa and surrounding counties in recognition of all the support we have received over these many years from volunteers, patrons, sponsors and donors, civic and religious leaders, foundations, fellow non-profit and arts organizations, parents, schools and educators, enthusiastic audiences and countless others,” Board President Marianne David said. “Our community created TCT and we are proud to remain a strong provider of art education and entertainment for Tuscaloosa.”
TCT will celebrate its anniversary with multiple activities announced throughout the year to honor its founders and the numerous casts and crews over 35 years.
As part of the celebration, TCT dedicates this first show of 2021 to Shelley Jones and Dee Ward whose vision brought together the necessary forces and funding to create TCT in 1986. The original group of parents, educators, and theatre professionals identified a need for the youth of Tuscaloosa and surrounding counties to educate and expose children to all aspects of stage performing and to have opportunities to perform. Today, TCT offers onstage and offstage opportunities for hundreds of children each year, and houses audiences of thousands of children and families annually.
Although COVID-19 led to the cancellation of TCT’s previously scheduled live performances for the 2020-21 season, the theatre has continued to engage young thespians and audiences with alternative performances and plans to return to the stage with a live production in the fall.
The Show Must Go Online! was written in response to the coronavirus pandemic to allow young performers the chance to continue performing from a safe distance. It was written exclusively for Zoom by Jessica Penzias with lyrics by Dave Hudson and music by Denver Casado. Rehearsing and recording were done online and directed by TCT’s Artistic Coordinator Drew Baker with Board Vice President Richard Livingston providing music and video editing support. It is presented through special arrangement with Beat by Beat Press (www.beatbybeatpress.com).
While recorded separately, when strung together the videos tell the hilarious story of a group of drama students desperate to keep their annual musical alive and their frazzled drama teacher who is helpless with technology but committed to helping her students realize their dream. In creating the show, the writers considered what kids and drama teachers have been experiencing during the pandemic and worked those themes into each scene – including the antics and technical mayhem that comes with performing a musical online. The result is a comedic and fun storyline designed to lift spirits when we all need it the most.
“We had so much fun being creative and rehearsing this show,” Baker said. “The storyline is so relevant to what we are all experiencing right now and offers a chance to reflect on how our lives have changed the past year and how to make the best of a challenging situation.”
All schools are invited to view the performance and TCT has created a Teacher’s Packet with guided discussion questions and activities for classes. The run time is approximately 35 minutes and references within the script make it best suited for grades 4 and higher.
Executive Director Stacey Messina said a donation link will be available after viewing for anyone who wishes to make a small gift to TCT with a variation of 3 or 5 such as $3, $5, $35 and so on.
“We hope the community enjoys watching this show as much as we enjoyed making it,” Messina said. “We look forward to sharing more news soon about the exciting activities we have lined up for the rest of our year-long anniversary celebration.”
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.1/21/21 – With COVID-19 continuing to present challenges to live theatre and large gatherings, the Tuscaloosa Children’s Theatre Board of Directors has voted to cancel the spring performances of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
The musical was originally scheduled to be performed by a cast of 80 local and regional youths at the historic Bama Theatre in April 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. Ongoing concerns and restrictions pushed the show again from Fall 2020 to April 2021 to its eventual cancelation.
“So much went into this decision and we feel horrible for these kids who invested so much time and effort learning their lines, lyrics and blocking last year for it not come to fruition,” Board President Marianne David said. “But as a board we think it’s best to put 2020 behind us and start fresh with a new season in the fall.”
Those who pre-purchased tickets to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and did not receive a refund already can request one by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
TCT has continued to engage performers and audiences during the pandemic with an outdoor variety show in October and a YouTube series of songs performed by TCT youths throughout the holiday season. Additional virtual offerings are in the works and will be announced soon.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. 12/10/20 – Tuscaloosa Children’s Theatre is proud to present Home for the Holidays, a video series featuring some of the area’s finest young voices performing holiday classics and modern favorites.
The videos will be shared at no cost to viewers through the holiday season on TCT’s YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp2ZAifxRHvgs34-vaCUsew/feed) and linked on the TCT website at tuscaloosachildrenstheatre.net. New videos will drop daily beginning Sunday, Dec. 13.
“Although we couldn’t proceed with our production of Elf JR this season, our TCT performers wanted to share a special gift with everyone to enjoy from the safety and comfort of their homes,” Executive Director Stacey Messina said. “We hope it brings joy to all who watch.”
The children in the videos had planned to perform their songs at an outdoor show on Dec. 6 that was canceled due to rising COVID-19 cases in the area. Artistic Director Drew Baker worked with the performers over Zoom and recording was done socially distanced and adhering to recommended safety precautions.
“Performing is very important to our children so it was important to us to find a safe way to let them share their talents,” Baker said. “And now an even larger audience can enjoy them.”
As with many arts and community events this year, TCT’s scheduled performances of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Little Mermaid JR, Elf JR and Cinderella were postponed due to the pandemic. TCT has tentatively rescheduled The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for April 23-25, 2021 and hopes to perform the other shows next year as well.
TCT thanks its generous show sponsors for their support: Davis Eye Clinic, ENT Associates of Tuscaloosa, First Federal Bank, MedCenter Urgent Care, and Dr. Eric and Kelly Sputh. And our gratitude to NorthRiver Yacht Club for allowing us use of their facilities to record in a socially distanced manner.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. 12/2/20 – With rising levels of COVID-19 cases, TCT is changing the format of its upcoming performance scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 6 from in-person to virtual.
'Tis the Season: An Afternoon of Solos and Duets by Tuscaloosa Children's Theatre was a free performance to be held at 2 pm at the Buddy Powell Pavilion, 4205 Northridge Road. As a replacement, TCT will record each performer and share the videos online for all to enjoy from the safety and comfort of their homes.
“Even though we were taking all necessary precautions by hosting the show outdoors, capping attendance at 150, and requiring social distancing and facial masks, the infection rate is increasing so quickly that we felt it prudent to switch gears,” Executive Director Stacey Messina said. “Any risk to our children, families and community is too much. But we know how important performing is to our children, so we found a safer way to let them share their gifts and for an even larger audience to enjoy them.”
The replacement event “Home for the Holidays” will include a series of recorded solos performed by some of the area’s finest young voices performing a mix of holiday classics and modern favorites. The videos will be shared on TCT’s social media platforms and website.
Artistic Director Drew Baker has been working with the performers via Zoom.
“We have a great time rehearsing their pieces and working on acting skills within their songs,” Baker said. “I also get to catch up with how they are doing during this unprecedented time. I love these kids and these kids love to perform.”
As with many arts and community events this year, TCT’s scheduled performances of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Little Mermaid JR, Elf JR and Cinderella were postponed due to the pandemic. TCT has tentatively rescheduled The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for April 23-25, 2021.
TCT thanks its generous show sponsors for their support: Davis Eye Clinic, ENT Associates of Tuscaloosa, First Federal Bank, MedCenter Urgent Care, and Dr. Eric and Kelly Sputh.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. 11/2/20– Tuscaloosa Children’s Theatre is excited to announce the hiring of Stacey Messina as its new Executive Director, the first in the organization’s 34-year history.
Mrs. Messina will work with Drew Baker, who has served as TCT’s Artistic Coordinator since 2009, and the 28 members of TCT’s Board of Directors who represent many areas of the community and provide countless hours of support and work to the theatre. The Board has been a “working board” since TCT’s creation in 1986, with two of its founding members, Dee Ward and Shelley Jones, remaining on the board since.
“We have been fortunate with very dedicated and hard-working volunteers and the creative direction of Drew and other area artists throughout our history, but with the growth of the theatre and looking forward to our first home at the proposed Saban Center, the board felt it time to hire a director to help take us to the next level,” Board President Marianne David said.
Mrs. Messina’s extensive background and success in public relations, nonprofit advocacy and fundraising will aid TCT in reaching development goals, broadening audiences and programming, and adapting to challenges presented by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Her love of the arts and involvement in several children’s organizations and efforts over the years won the board’s full support.
“Mrs. Messina brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the nonprofit sector, and a passion for helping children both in her career and her volunteer service,” said Emily Leigh, chair of the board’s search committee. “We are confident in her abilities to help TCT achieve new heights.”
The Messina family moved to Tuscaloosa from DeWitt, Michigan in July 2019. Her husband, Joseph P. Messina, is Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Alabama. They have two children, Sophie, 12, and Josiah, 7, and a Springer-Doodle named Ivy.
“Shortly after moving to Tuscaloosa, my husband and I took our kids to see TCT perform Annie JR and we were blown away by the high quality of the production – from the costumes and sets to the choreography and talent of the children,” Mrs. Messina said. “It was a wonderful experience and I’m thrilled to join an organization that engages and enriches children in ways that will benefit them throughout their lives.”
A journalist by training, Mrs. Messina spent a decade as an award-winning reporter and columnist before becoming communications director and consultant for nonprofit children and family organizations in mid-Michigan. In that capacity as well as through service on various boards and committees, Mrs. Messina created and managed successful public relations and development campaigns, including helping to secure a $65 million boost to expand preschool access for low-income families, a $25 million school bond for safety and technology upgrades, and raising $60,000 in one evening to fund pediatric hospice and palliative care. She also helped write grant proposals and manage grant awards from several national foundations such as The Kresge Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
In Alabama, Mrs. Messina has served on the Campaign Cabinet of the University of Alabama’s Performing Arts Academic Center and as a senior advisor to the UA School of Music Board of Advisors. Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master’s degree in strategic communications and graduate certificate in digital media from Michigan State University.
As executive director of TCT, Mrs. Messina will be charged with preparing and executing fund-raising and development goals and strategies as well as managing daily operations that enable the theatre to produce shows, workshops and summer camps. She also will provide leadership on the theatre’s move into the proposed Saban Center, an innovative community partnership bringing together the Tuscaloosa Public Library, Children’s Hands-On Museum, and a community black-box theater in a unique public-private partnership under the roof of what is currently the Tuscaloosa News Building. As part of the City’s Elevate Tuscaloosa Initiative, the Saban Center will bring STEM programs together with theatre, literature, outdoor recreation, and interactive learning for children and families in Tuscaloosa.
“Particularly in these uncertain times, the arts can help children understand and express their feelings and find joy despite the disruptions in their daily lives,” Mrs. Messina said. “Having the Saban Center to look forward to provides hope and excitement for Tuscaloosa, TCT and the children and families who will benefit so greatly from it. I am honored to have been selected for this role and look forward to taking TCT to the top.”