Main Street Summer Theater
The Main Street Arts Council was awarded a Cheyenne County Hansen Community Grant of $10,000 in 2020.
The Main Street Summer Theater Festival was developed to provide performance opportunities free of charge to youth in our rural region of northwest Kansas like those readily available in more densely populated/urban communities. Often, children from our region must travel to the east side of the state or even out of state to enjoy similar experiences in the performing arts arena. In addition, funding from the grant will allow our organization, staff and volunteers, to produce high-quality musical theater productions as well as one-of-a kind learning experiences for the children participating. Due to increasing hardships such as arts funding cuts and overburdened music educators/programs, performance opportunities are often impossible for schools to provide; WE can help fill that void.
Our festival includes paid Student/Assistant Director Internship positions providing real-life, hands-on directorial, organizational and project management experiences to interns. The interns are primarily current music education and/or theater majors or college-aged students with interests in music/theater and working with youth and members of a community. (Intern positions may also be filled by adults with music/theater backgrounds/affinities). The internship program provides an additional – or missing – opportunity to experience producing a full-scale show which will assist them in their careers as future educators. The interns will work alongside music professionals who grew up in northwest Kansas and have returned home to share their expertise and help contribute to/build up the cultural arts industry by providing performing arts opportunities in the region.
In support of the arts as a viable and relevant industry in our region, our organization believes in and works to provide job opportunities such as those available to the directors, choreographers, interns, etc. As part of our mission statement, we work to recognize the expertise, time, talent and work that local artists provide to their communities and believe in compensating them accordingly. This provides economic incentive to those individuals while helping to alleviate volunteer burnout often faced by “small town” organizations which primarily rely on volunteer efforts to even exist. Providing paid opportunities for staff members of the program also provides economic impact to the region and state through taxes paid on salaries. Additional impact includes those coming from the purchase of local supplies for costumes, sets and props as well as the tourism benefits provided by participants and/or audience members eating at local restaurants, purchasing cast flowers/gifts, and possibly incurring travel expenses (gas/hotels) for example.
The benefits to the participants are truly innumerable; however, we believe strongly in the following abbreviated list and know from our experience in other communities, the youth from the St. Francis area who participate will undoubtedly enjoy these and more.
Build Confidence – The children learn to trust their own instincts, ideas and abilities throughout the creative/rehearsal process.
Build Focus – Every participant works together to learn their lines, songs, choreography and scene changes.
Improve Memory Function – Not only do the children have to memorize their solo lines and songs, but they also must memorize the lines of everyone else in the play in order to understand when to come in and move about the stage within the scene.
Enhance Communication Skills – Working with a large group of people increases verbal and non-verbal communication skills. They must articulate their thoughts, but also listen and observe.
Instill Responsibility – Musical productions are team activities; everyone needs to be present and prepared to ensure productive rehearsals and successful performances.
Grow Empathy – Learning a role requires an actor to become a different character, put themselves into that character’s situation and be able to understand the problems that character is facing. Aside from the empathetic nature of learning a character, we have also observed the empathy created in a shared experience. Children will help each other with nervousness, forgotten lines or the misplacement of a prop.
Grow Regional Relationships – While focused in St. Francis, the production is open to all area children. It is possible we may have children from nearby communities participating. Friendships are made in a non-competitive atmosphere. Parents who have sat across from each other for years in the stands of a gymnasium may now sit next to one another in an auditorium, get to know each other and build a connection from the shared experience of theater or waiting with other parents for rehearsals to end. We hope that as we expand this program to include more communities, everyone will support each other and drive to enjoy the other productions, cheering on the other participants.