Emmanuel Houston, former SCCT student
At eleven years old and with no prior theatre experience, Emmanuel was encouraged to audition for SCCT’s production of Charlotte’s Web. Homeschooled and living in an at-risk neighborhood, Emmanuel initially had trouble relating to children his own age. However, after his first production, he was hooked on theatre. SCCT offered Emmanuel a scholarship to continue taking acting classes. Soon, he was serving as a teaching assistant, an actor in Gang Awareness, SCCT’s gang prevention education program for middle schools, and participating in classroom workshops with trained adult actors/facilitators.
“I’ve been through some of the same things that [gang] show is about,” Emmanuel said. “It was therapeutic for me. We’re not always given a platform for what we really want to say and theatre lets me say those things.”
Emmanuel is now at the College of Charleston, double majoring in Music and Arts Management. Recently, he was cast in his first college production.
“SCCT gave me dreams and ambitions that I didn’t have before,” Emmanuel said. “It was a positive force that changed the way I was living and gave me the drive to strive for bigger goals in my life.”
Lila Smith, current SCCT student
My grandmother has been taking me to every SCCT show seasonally since I was three years old. I remember being so curious to know what was behind the curtain. I wanted to know what it looked like, how everything worked, and how to get into a show.
When I was in third grade, I had been taking Karate for a long time and I was ready to move on. My mom suggested I try out for one of the South Carolina Children’s Theatre’s shows, and I decided to give it a shot. Of course I was so nervous and I had no idea what I was doing, but everyone at the Children’s Theatre welcomed me. I probably did not do too well with that first audition (but it’s just a learning experience at first, right?), and I didn’t get in. I was devastated, but I decided to try out some classes. After a couple of classes, I felt more confident and excited for the next audition. But little did I know, it would take even more classes and SIX auditions, when I finally made it in to my first production, Junie B., Jingle Bells Batman Smells, in 2012 as the lead character of Junie B. I was thrilled and had the best time working with a great director and an amazing cast.
As I have continued with acting, so many doors have opened. I have now performed in seven productions with SCCT, taken (and still taking) classes there, assisted with classes, participated in Character Breakfasts, and done both TV interviews and radio commercials. In addition to the experiences, the South Carolina Children’s Theatre has done so much for me. It has taught me valuable lessons of: Perseverance- auditioning over and over and continuing to take classes; Responsibility- going to rehearsal every night, memorizing lines, doing acting class homework along with my school homework. And the most obvious: Acting skills- Studio A and B (advanced), process acting, production, exploration, everything for ages 3-18.
Also, I have made so many relationships with wonderful people through shows and classes. I could never thank the South Carolina Children’s Theatre enough for what they do for me and for so many children and families who love it as much as I do, and for being the best second home I could ever ask for.
Dustin Ousley, former SCCT student
I played Dickon in The Secret Garden, Baker in Into the Woods, Lion in The Wizard of Oz, the Prince in Cinderella, and Pooh in Winnie the Pooh. I remember walking in for the first time as a backstage crew member working on The Little Mermaid in 1994. For the first time in my life, I was immediately accepted by people. People I hardly knew were hugging me and asking me about myself. It was thrilling! I am now in the second year of work on a doctorate in choral conducting at the University of South Carolina. I currently teach Sophomore Aural Skills, Freshmen Theory, and sing in Concert Choir. I also direct Graduate Vocal Ensemble and Women’s Chorus. SCCT provided an outlet for me that I needed at an incredibly sensitive and volatile time in my life. Being surrounded by people who desired to learn and have fun without passing judgment on you was unprecedented and it helped shape who I am today.
Ben Pirtle, former SCCT performer
The first time I went to SCCT was with my neighbor to pick up her daughter from a rehearsal. I remember walking in and my jaw dropping at all the people running around and the music and dancing. My neighbor had to peel me out of the theatre. I was cast as the lead in the next show, The Magic of Christmas. I knew then that the arts were going to lead my life.
My favorite memory comes from Oliver! I was up for the role of Oliver!, and so was Towers Rice. During call backs, Towers and I went back and forth singing, dancing and improvising scenes. In the end, the role went to Towers and I was devastated. I told myself that if I wanted to pursue theatre, I would have to be the best Charley Bates I could. This was my first, and best, lesson in humility. During the run of Oliver!, we all became instant friends and I still hold those friendships dear to this day. I went on to perform in several shows at SCCT and I always walked away having learned and gained new confidence in myself as a performer and person.
I moved to New York City in 1999 to pursue an acting career. I studied at Stella Adler and with several private coaches. I was cast in a few off Broadway shows including working at the historic Lamama theatre. I was able to travel to Cyprus and represent the United States in the International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama. I produced and played the title role in a production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I obtained a membership in the Screen Actors Guild after being cast in Shaft with Sam Jackson. I currently live in Manhattan with my girlfriend Hilary who is an opera singer.
Debbie Bell, SCCT Executive Director
I got involved with SCCT when my children auditioned for Dracula in 1989! I had grown up putting on plays with other children in my basement and performing at Greenville Little Theatre, so the bug had already bit, and I had already seen a glimpse of the magic.
I started volunteering with SCCT and realized my heart was here. Over the years, I have found that what feeds my soul is watching how one class… one show… one outreach opportunity… can change a child’s life. It is theatre that often gives a child their first confident sense of self, the feeling that they too are heard, that they have a place to belong. Over and over again, SCCT is just that place for so many children.
Each and every day there are reminders of why children’s theatre, and specifically this place, are important. It is important to find that magical spark that ignites a passion, to find that place where you feel you can make a difference. That initial passion later leads to finding work and a career you love, whether your eventual path is in the arts or not. I have certainly found my passion here at SCCT. Whether it’s on-stage or backstage, in classes or even assisting in the office, we change the children’s lives we touch and that really matters to me. We are so lucky to be a part of that difference for young people!
Ryleigh Mabe, current SCCT student
Ryleigh was first introduced to theater in the spring of 2013. We took her to see Diary of a Worm, Spider and Fly and from that moment on she was hooked! We attended the next 2nd Stage performance and then began attending the Tell Me a Story times with Ms. Traysie Amick. This past spring Ryleigh wanted to take a class so we signed up for the Play Date class. It was a perfect introduction! My shy little girl was able to have me there participating with her and it was much more intimate. By the end of the class, Ryleigh was not only an active member of the class, she was participating in Tell Me a Story! She has come so far in such a short period of time and it’s all thanks to Ms. Traysie and to South Carolina Children’s Theatre! She is no longer shy; her natural leader personality is shining through! She decided to audition for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and she got the part!! We could not be more proud of her or more grateful to SCCT and Ms. Traysie.
– Sarah Mabe, Mother of Ryleigh
Morgan Beck, former SCCT student
I currently live in Los Angeles and work as a writer’s assistant for a show on ABC called “The Goldbergs.” My favorite role when I was at SCCT was when I played Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. It was such a supportive group of people. I got to wear prosthetics which was great, and of course, it was fun to be the lead! We did the show in the spring at the Gunter Theater, and then again for the POPS program in the fall. My voice changed between spring and fall, so I no longer sounded like Wilbur. I wasn’t really aware that my voice had changed until that moment. Everyone joked with me and I think that really helped me enter that stage of my life with a solid sense of humor about it. It is hard to count the ways that SCCT influenced me. The things that it did for my self-esteem and for my ability to make friends among a group of new people can’t be measured – not to mention that I’m sure I wouldn’t be in LA pursuing a career in the entertainment business if it weren’t for SCCT. I basically owe my life path to that place!
The Meyer Center for Special Children
For several years, The Meyer Center has collaborated with the South Carolina Children’s Theatre to combine special needs preschool children and theatre in the annual graduation ceremonies at the end of the year.
Starting in the early spring, Traysie Amick began coming every week for about an hour to work with The Meyer Center students. Every Wednesday, I would hear staff members talk about how much fun the children were having with Traysie. Even our students with autism and more complex physical needs participated at a level that amazed me, Traysie and The Meyer Center staff!
Traysie has a way about her that makes each child feel special. Her magnetic energy fills the room as she works with each student to express themselves on their developmental level. I am amazed at her intuitive nature with each child’s disabilities and abilities.
On graduation day, I observed emotional parents as they watched their child perform “Pete the Cat.” The story and presentation was a perfect conclusion to the child’s time at The Meyer Center and their bright future as they move on into “big” school. Parents expressed their appreciation for being able to see their child perform – something that they did not think was possible.
Thanks from The Meyer Center students, staff, and parents for the continued partnership with South Carolina Children’s Theatre and for helping make the impossible possible.
– Martha J. Smith, M.Ed., Education Director
The Meyer Center for Special Children