Giving Matters: SCCT’s Debbie Bell Fund for Artistic Excellence to support bold initiatives

“In the early days, we would perform anywhere that would have us — churches, schools — until we became a resident company of the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre. Even then we moved our administrative offices, classrooms and outreach programs from place to place without the synergy of having everything in the same building where we held performances,” Bell says. “Now the Children’s Theatre has a true home it can be proud of.”

Under Bell’s leadership, SCCT has become the state’s largest children’s theater, serving 50,000 children and their families every year through performances, special events, classes, residencies, school tours and outreach programs for underserved children and those with special needs. The theater has also developed programs to help young people face issues like bullying, gangs, drugs and alcohol. Pursuing these projects despite financial constraints was important to Bell, and their impact in the community remains a point of pride.

“SCCT has tremendous partnerships that the public may not be aware of. We’ve worked with everyone from Marshall Pickens (Hospital), Camp Courage, the Meyer Center, the Washington Center and Greenville County Schools Child Development Centers, providing theater-education classes for children who wouldn’t otherwise have that experience. That meant a lot to me,” Bell says.

Minor Shaw, who worked alongside Bell over the years, describes Bell as a tireless advocate for the South Carolina Children’s Theatre.

“Debbie’s passion and vision for what the SCCT could be have been the guiding forces for the volunteers, the staff, parents and children who have all worked together with Debbie to make the [SCCT] what it is today,” Shaw says. “Generations of children and families have benefitted from having this wonderful theater in our community.”

As she approached her 2022 retirement, Bell wanted to ensure that SCCT, now co-led by Katie O’Kelly, managing director, and Matt Giles, artistic director, would have the means to continue pursuing innovative ideas to advance its mission. She and theater leadership worked with the Community Foundation of Greenville to create the Debbie Bell Fund for Artistic Excellence. The fund is dedicated to supporting bold projects that might otherwise be beyond the theater’s reach.

“We always wanted to take what we were doing a step further, but we were limited in how far we could stretch our operating budget,” Bell says. “The Debbie Bell Fund really is designed to support artistic excellence, to make it possible to pursue initiatives like bringing internationally known playwrights to Greenville or organizing community-wide projects that bring together people from across the Upstate to produce joyful, life-changing theater.”

Bell hopes the fund will continue to grow, ensuring the theater’s legacy for future generations.

“I am so thankful to all the donors and friends who have already contributed to the fund,” she says. “I hope that others will join us in supporting the ongoing artistic excellence of SCCT and its mission to impact all children and families in our community through the transformational power of the arts.”

Donations to this fund can be made by visiting the Community Foundation’s website at and selecting “Debbie Bell Fund for Artistic Excellence at SC Children’s Theatre.” For more information on SCCT, visit

SCCT Voted Best New Play and Best Theatre for Young Audiences Production

BWW Regional Awards

Winners Announced For The 2022 BroadwayWorld South Carolina Awards

Thank you to all of the SCCT community and audiences for voting in the 2022 BroadwayWorld South Carolina Awards! Your nominations and votes won us the titles of Best New Play/Musical (Missing Moon) and Best Theatre for Young Audiences Production (The Sound of Music). See all of the winners here.

Missing Moon by Kerry Ferguson
Guillermo R Jemmott Jr. in The Sound of Music

A Miraculous Tale of Self-Transformation: South Carolina Children’s Theatre presents The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Coming up next at South Carolina Children’s Theatre is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, a play based on the children’s book of the same name by the award-winning children’s literature author Kate DiCamillo (of the Mercy Watson series and The Tale of Despereaux). The story follows a toy rabbit whose capacity for love grows through loss. It is an epic tale of resilience and empathy. The imaginative stage adaptation will run January 27th – February 5th on the SCCT Bell MainStage, and is directed by one of Greenville’s most accomplished directors, Jay Briggs. A skilled cast of 5 actors will bring to life over 20 characters with original music composed by upstate musician David Sims over 80 magical minutes. We sat down with director Jay Briggs to hear more about what audiences can expect from this magical production.

Director, Jay Briggs

SCCT: Is this your first time directing at SCCT?

BRIGGS: Yes! This is my first time directing for SCCT, and I was thrilled to accept the opportunity for professional and personal reasons. SCCT is an excellent, well-respected theatre, and I have several personal connections to the organization. As a high-schooler, I took classes with Betsy Bisson at Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina, and my eight-year-old daughter has been taking classes at SCCT since she was in pre-school. In my past experiences being a part of and directing theatre for young audiences, I’ve found that it is exciting and vital work. Then, when SCCT Artistic Director Matt Giles sent me the script for The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, the beauty and heightened theatricality immediately caught my interest.


SCCT: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a popular book. Had you read it before signing on to direct this play?

BRIGGS: I had read some of Kate DiCamillo’s other works, but not this one. While I highly recommend the book, reading it to enjoy this play is not necessary. The theatrical adaptation is beautifully engaging and imaginatively tells the same story.

Scenic Designer, Genesis Garza leads the cast through a tour of the set (in process)

SCCT: How will the play’s scenic design help tell the story of Edward Tulane? 

BRIGGS: SCCT Technical Director Genesis Garza’s scenic design will set our actors in an old attic full of lost treasures and surprising stories. It is a beautiful representation of a child’s imagination, with endless possibilities for magic.


SCCT: What are the major themes of the story?

BRIGGS: The primary lesson in this play is the importance of resilience and that sometimes love deepens through loss. This is a critical message for young people, especially in light of the past 2-3 years. Kids and families have been through a lot. And there are a couple of different ways to react to the trials we’ve been through – either by closing off and convincing yourself that it is the best way not to get hurt or by keeping your heart open and allowing yourself to grow as a result of tough times.


SCCT: Why do you think families will enjoy this play?

BRIGGS: This play reminds families of what’s truly important – love and relationships through a story of resilience told dynamically with compelling performances, imaginative scenic design, and original music.


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane opens Friday, January 27th and closes on Sunday, February 5th. The show runs for 80 minutes and is recommended for ages eight and up.


Tickets are $20 and can be purchased:

in person at the SCCT Box Office at 153 Augusta Street

by phone 864-235-2885

and online at

‘The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane’ to Open at SCCT was published in The Greenville Journal January 5, 2023.

Multigenerational Tale Told in a Fashionably Modern Way

Actors rehearsing choreography (L to R – Alexis Poole, Christina Yasi, Krissy Tucker, Morgan Goldsberry, and Choreographer Grayson Anthony)

There’s something magical on its way to Greenville’s West End. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s
Cinderella is the second production of the 2022-23 season at South Carolina Children’s Theatre
(SCCT) and opens Friday, November 18th on the Bell MainStage. This Broadway adaptation of
the classic musical features new characters, a hilarious libretto, surprising twists, and an
unforgettable score.

SCCT’s Artistic Director, Matt Giles (also the director of this production), wasn’t always a fan of
the classic musical. He and his brother grew up watching it on television.“The story of Cinderella
is ingrained in us all – it’s ancient and timeless. I wasn’t always a massive fan of this musical as
a kid. Every year I watched the televised version with Lesley Ann Warren – and I fell asleep. But,
after reading the updated Broadway script from 2013, I felt like the revisions gave the story new
life to speak to audiences of a newer generation. There’s still plenty of magic, but there’s also a
great sense of self-determination or magic of your own making. With the same beautiful music
and a few fun twists from our excellent design team, I’m confident this production will charm
audiences of all ages. I always love finding pieces that grandchildren will enjoy as much as
grandparents,” says Giles.

There are several versions of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, all of which were made for
TV: one in 1957 starring Julie Andrews, and another in 1965 starring Lesley Ann Warren (the
version Giles grew up watching), and the 1997 version starring Brandy and Whitney Houston.
This updated book by Douglas Carter Greene, gives Cinderella more agency and provides a
strong example of female friendship.

Costume Designer, Sarah Greene

Giles is also working with his production team to put a fashionably fun and modern stamp on the
design of the show. Costume Designer, Sarah Greene is busy at work upcycling and sewing
from scratch to create a unique take on 1700’s Rococo fashion that incorporates exciting colors
and textures from the 1980’s. “We are excited to reimagine Cinderella in this unique artistic
style. So while there will still be the frills and ruffles that everyone loves, the show will have a
new feel and flair that we know will delight our audiences,” says Giles.

Actors and Mother/Daughter – Krissy Tucker and Alexis Poole

Cast member, Krissy Tucker, plays Madame (the evil stepmother) in this production.
Commenting on how the updated version of the story, Tucker says, “This version has more
depth, humor, and a bit more sarcasm than the original. It doesn’t give way to the notion from
the original that one person has to be saved from their situation by any one person. Or that your
social status determines your value or worth.”

Tucker is also looking forward to playing Madame alongside her own daughter Alexis Poole,
making this a family affair. “This is our first time acting together onstage and playing mother and
daughter actually makes it a lot easier, says Tucker.“It allows me to pull from a real place and
hopefully will help bring an authenticity that is tangible to the audience. And most importantly it’s
so much fun. This experience is taking our relationship to a whole new level!”

In planning the Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella in SCCT’s coveted winter slot, the creative
team is excited to produce a show that will appeal to multiple generations. “The play still has the
sweetness and kindness qualities as seen in other versions that are geared mainly for children
but simultaneously includes humor and themes that adults will appreciate as well,” says Tucker.
“The show also teaches you that someone else does not determine your destiny but that you
possess that power within yourself. I also appreciate being a part of a production that is
inclusive of all races and is not bound by how roles were casted in the past. These are just a
couple of things that will resonate and feel relatable to all generations.”

Throughout the run of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, SCCT is also taking the opportunity
to give back during the holiday season. When attending shows, audience members can donate
gently worn pairs of shoes which will benefit Funds2Orgs, an organization that helps
communities in developing nations build small businesses. The theatre hopes to help facilitate
economic stability for these families abroad and promote a sense of gratitude and generosity in
its youngest patrons.

SCCT to present ‘Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella’ was published in The Greenville Journal on November 9th, 2022.

Katie O’Kelly Hired as New Managing Director of South Carolina Children’s Theatre; Eager To Build Upon SCCT’s Legacy

South Carolina Children’s Theatre (SCCT) is pleased to announce the hiring of Katie O’Kelly as the organization’s new Managing Director. Ms. O’Kelly will co-lead the organization with SCCT’s Artistic Director, Matt Giles, and will begin work at the theatre this September.

“The Board of Directors is delighted to welcome Katie O’Kelly to South Carolina Children’s Theatre,” says SCCT Board Chair Kathryn Freedman. “In her new role as Managing Director, Katie and Artistic Director Matt Giles will maintain the purpose, quality, and vision our patrons expect while adding their own energy and flair. The Board is confident that together they will build on the creative and transformative foundation established by Debbie Bell.”

Ms. O’Kelly hails from Florence, South Carolina and received her B.A. from Wofford College and her Master of Fine Arts at the California Institute of the Arts. She has worked nationally and internationally as a Production Manager, Producer, and Stage Manager for companies like Seattle Repertory Theatre, Spoleto Festival USA, CalArts Center for New Performance, REDCAT, Triad Stage, Charleston Stage Company, and Wuzhen Theatre Festival in Wuzhen, China. She worked as Producing Associate for the 8-time Tony Award winning Best Musical Hadestown through its pre-Broadway runs in Canada and London, and in its current run on Broadway. Most recently, Ms. O’Kelly was the Director of Operations and Production at Triad Stage in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she managed the business side of the organization and its $2.2M operating budget. Ms. O’Kelly has also served as an Adjunct Professor at University of North Carolina Greensboro teaching Stage Management, an Adjunct Professor of Theatre at Greensboro College teaching courses in Stage Management and Production Management, and the Producing Associate for the Tony Award winning Producer, Dale Franzen.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be joining the team at SCCT as its new Managing Director,” says Ms. O’Kelly. “I am passionate about the mission of the theatre and look forward to building upon SCCT’s 35-year legacy and creating more opportunities for young people and their families to engage with the theatre.”

SCCT’s Board of Directors led an exhaustive nationwide search for the role. “The search committee interviewed candidates from across the country, and we were very pleased to find a South Carolina voice to continue leading the theatre,” says Derek Lewis, SCCT board member and leader of the Managing Director search committee.

This September will start a year-long celebration of SCCT’s 35-year anniversary, and with a brand-new theatre facility in the West End, and Ms. O’Kelly now in place to co-lead the organization, the theatre is poised for its next stage of growth. “I am thrilled to welcome Katie to SCCT and to partner with her in leading the theatre,” says Artistic Director, Matt Giles. “She will be a phenomenal addition and her wide array of experience will be a tremendous asset during this period of exciting growth and change at South Carolina Children’s Theatre.”

Looking back on SCCT’s first 35 years, there is much to celebrate, especially for Debbie Bell who has been with the theatre for 34 years, with 23 of those years as Executive Director. Ms. Bell leaves behind an extraordinary legacy for SCCT and the City of Greenville, and says the future is bright for the organization. “Katie O’Kelly is a rising star in the theatrical field,” says Ms. Bell. “She and Matt will make a stellar team. I look forward to seeing how they will work with the Board and the Staff to grow the theatre to new heights. SCCT is in great hands and I personally can’t wait to see what they do next.”

Photo credit: Kris Decker/Firewater Photography

Founded in 1987 by Ric Standridge, South Carolina Children’s Theatre has impacted the lives of children and families in the Upstate community through theatre, educational classes and workshops, and accessible outreach initiatives. Each year, South Carolina Children’s Theatre produces and performs five high quality, live theatre performances featuring children and adults on its Bell MainStage. The theatre also produces three-four additional shows and other special events on its more intimate Younts 2nd Stage. Throughout the year, SCCT offers professional year-round education in the dramatic arts for children ages 3 to 18, as well as educational outreach to low-income and special needs children. For more information about South Carolina Children’s Theatre, please visit:


Contact info:

Kate Fowler
Director of Development & Marketing
South Carolina Children’s Theatre
[email protected]
Address: 153 Augusta Street, Greenville, SC 29601
Office Phone: (864) 203-1164


Sound of Music Trivia

by Margaret Butler

It’s easy to get the tunes of “The Hills are Alive,” “My Favorite Things,” “Do-re-mi,” and “Edelweiss” stuck in your head, but few people know the history behind the beloved story and music. The Broadway musical – which inspired the 1965 film – was based on the memoir “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” by the real Maria von Trapp (Kutschera). We hope you enjoy these interesting facts and perhaps use them as a conversation starter before you see the live production at SCCT!

1. The Sound of Music was based on a real family!
Maria Kutschera was born in 1905. In 1926, she left her convent to live with the von Trapp family, where she was to tutor one of Captain von Trapp’s children, who was sick at the time. Contrary to the story we all know and love, she wasn’t originally hired as a governess for the family! (The Washington Post)

2. There were actually 10 von Trapp children – not 7!
There were 10 children, not 7, in the von Trapp family. Their names were changed, as well. The real von Trapp children were named Rupert, Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna, Martina, Rosmarie, Eleonore, and Johannes. (Biography)

3. No “do-re-mi” lessons for the real von Trapp siblings
Maria didn’t have to teach the von Trapp siblings how to sing. In fact, they were already accomplished singers and musicians before she arrived! Maria, however, did encourage them to share their talents by touring and performing in competitions. They won first place in the Salzburg Music Festival in 1936! (National Archives)

4. “Edelweiss” isn’t Austrian
“Edelweiss” is one of the most recognizable and beloved songs from The Sound of Music. However, it wasn’t an Austrian standard. It was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the musical. (Insider)

5. The von Trapps didn’t actually escape to Switzerland via mountain pass
In fact, they took a train to Italy! It would have been unsafe for them to cross over the Austrian mountains, as it would have landed them in Hitler’s Germany. (

6. The Singing Heart
According to The Sound of Music, originally went by a totally different name: The Singing Heart.

7. A Broadway Flop
The Sound of Music first opened on Broadway in 1959 and was slammed by critics for being too “saccharine.” The producers had already invested $2 million in advance ticket sales so it was able to stay open! It ran on Broadway for three years with 1,443 performances. (The Sound of Music)

8. Hammerstein’s final hurrah
Sadly, The Sound of Music was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s last collaboration. Shortly after the first Broadway premiere, Hammerstein passed away. This was his 8th and final musical. (

9. 6 Tony Awards and 5 Oscars
The Sound of Music on Broadway won six Tony awards, including Best Musical and Best Actress for Mary Martin, who played Maria. The movie adaptation won five Oscars in 1965, including Best Picture. (

10. The original cast recording was number one on Billboard charts for 16 weeks
The original cast recording was recorded a week after the show’s premiere in 1959. It was released by Columbia Records and quickly rose to the top of the Billboard album charts, where it was number one for 16 weeks! (

With your Sound of Music trivia now in hand, we hope you join us at SCCT to enjoy this classic story. Directed by SCCT Artistic Director Matt Giles and featuring performances by local actors, choreographers, and designers, this production of Sound of Music will be one to remember!

The Sound of Music runs at South Carolina Children’s Theatre from May 6th – 22nd with showtimes at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm, Tickets are $22. Get your tickets here. 

South Carolina Children’s Theatre Announces 2022-23 Season; To Introduce ‘Pay What You Can’ Performances

For their 35th season approaching this fall 2022, South Carolina Children’s Theatre (SCCT) has announced an exciting slate of shows. “This season is full of joy and hope,” says Matt Giles, SCCT’s Artistic Director. “It truly showcases our commitment to be a theatre producing work for multigenerational audiences, and there is something for each and every age group to enjoy. I’m also proud that not only are we introducing our audiences to some new titles, we are also expanding our directing pool. Three of our directors this season will be making their SCCT MainStage directorial debuts. We continue to strive to produce the best work and collaborate with the best artists.”

For its second full season at the theatre’s new home at 153 Augusta Street, across from Gather GVL, Giles is excited to present both beloved classics and newer productions that may not be as familiar to audiences, but are sure to entertain, challenge, and inspire. “Choosing a season is both exhilarating and challenging,” says Giles. “We work hard to balance a variety of factors, with the goal always being to educate and stimulate the minds and imaginations of young people and their families. And I believe this season does just that.”

From its productions to its educational programming, community events, and more, the team at SCCT is dedicated to ensuring that the theatre is a welcoming space where the Greenville community feels comfortable and at home. “It is so important to us that every child, and every family in Greenville feels welcome at SCCT,” says Debbie Bell, Executive Director. “After operating out of warehouses, government buildings, and eventually the Gunter Theatre at the Peace Center for many years, we are now so proud to invite the community into our new home.”

To make the theatre as accessible as possible for all, SCCT will be introducing a “Pay What You Can” performance for each MainStage show in its 22-23 season. The specific dates/times of those shows will be announced at a later date. “We believe everyone should have access to great theatre. Ticket prices can prevent us from engaging with the widest possible audience, so we are working hard to eliminate that barrier.”

Here is South Carolina Children’s Theatre’s 2022-23 season outlined below, along with additional commentary from Giles about each show.

Tickets for the 2022-23 Season will go on sale on the SCCT website on Wednesday, May 25th.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! The Musical!

Based on the book by Mo Willems
Script by Mo Willems and Mr. Warburton
Lyrics by Mo Willems
Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
Directed by Connor Vetter
Production dates: September 23, 2022 – October 2, 2022

With a script written by Mo Willems, the creator of the #1 New York Times best-selling, Caldecott Honor award-winning “Pigeon” picture books, and featuring an innovative mix of songs (and feathers), Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! The Musical! is sure to get everyone’s wings flapping.

Giles: “I am a tremendous fan of Mo Willems’ work. His books are beloved by children and parents alike. This piece is an adaptation of one of my favorite picture books, and it features new and innovative songs. I’m also thrilled to bring Connor Vetter here to direct. She is one of my favorite theatre artists working today, and I can’t wait to see what she does with this piece.”

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
New Book by Douglas Carter Beane
Original Book by Oscar Hammerstein II
Directed by Matt Giles
Production dates: November 18, 2022 – December 11, 2022

This Broadway adaptation of the classic musical features new characters, a hilarious libretto, surprising twists, and an unforgettable score from Rodgers & Hammerstein.

Giles: “While we have technically produced this show before, we haven’t produced this version. The show was given a fresh update in 2013 in preparation for a Broadway run, and the changes are quite lovely. The show feels much more modern, but retains all the great songs from the original version (with a few additions). I’m very much looking forward to bringing this show to our stage, and I think it will be a perfect holiday treat for the whole family.”

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Adapted by Dwayne Hartford
From the book by Kate DiCamillo
Directed by Jay Briggs
Production dates:  January 27, 2023 – February 5, 2023

Based on Kate DiCamillo’s beautiful novel of the same name, Edward Tulane is the story of an expensive toy rabbit made of china who loses his way home. Edward starts a miraculous journey where he learns what it is to love, what it is to lose that love, and how to find the courage to love again.

Giles: “I am in love with this stunning and heartfelt adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s book. The show is written in an innovative theatrical style that will engage our audience in new and exciting ways. We are always trying to find stories our audiences may be slightly less familiar with, and ways we can introduce new ways of storytelling. Jay Briggs is one of the most respected directors in the Upstate and I’m thrilled that he will helm this production.”

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show

Created by Jonathan Rockefeller
Based on the books by Eric Carle
Directed by Mia Phillips
Production dates: March 3, 2023 – March 12, 2023

The critically acclaimed production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show created by Jonathan Rockefeller features a menagerie of 75 lovable puppets. The production faithfully adapts four stories by author/illustrator Eric Carle: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, 10 Little Rubber Ducks, The Very Busy Spider and of course, the star of the show – The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The Very Hungry Caterpillar has delighted generations of readers since it was first published in 1969 selling more than 48 million copies worldwide. Brown Bear, Brown Bear – now celebrating 50 years – has sold more than 18.2 million copies. 

Giles: “Who hasn’t read Eric Carle’s charming stories? This show will delight audiences of all ages, but particularly the youngest among us. We believe it is crucial to program work for the very young on our MainStage, and this will serve as a brilliant introduction to live theatre. And it will be wonderful to have Mia Phillips’ directing work back on our stage.”

Once on This Island

Book by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Directed by Ahsha Daniels
Dates: May 5, 2023 – May 21, 2023

From the Tony Award-winning songwriting team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Seussical, Ragtime), comes the Olivier Award-winning Once on This Island. This highly original and theatrical Caribbean adaptation of the popular fairy tale, The Little Mermaid, tells the story of one small girl who finds love in a world of prejudice.

Giles: “This is a gorgeous story of love and loss. It was recently revived on Broadway and won a Tony Award in the process. It is unlike anything we have ever produced at SCCT, and I am so very excited to welcome director Ahsha Daniels to help us bring this story to life. I cannot wait to share this piece with our audiences.”

Tickets for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella and Once On This Island are $25. Tickets for all other shows are $20.

Founded in 1987, South Carolina Children’s Theatre has impacted the lives of children and families in the Upstate community through theatre, educational classes and workshops, and accessible outreach initiatives. Each year, South Carolina Children’s Theatre produces and performs five high quality, live theatre performances featuring children and adults on its Bell MainStage. The theatre also produces three-four additional shows and other special events on its more intimate Younts 2nd Stage. Throughout the year, SCCT offers professional year-round education in the dramatic arts for children ages 3 to 18, as well as educational outreach to low-income and special needs children. For more information about South Carolina Children’s Theatre, please visit:

Contact info:
Kate Fowler
Director of Development & Marketing
South Carolina Children’s Theatre
[email protected]
Address: 153 Augusta Street, Greenville, SC 29601
Office Phone: (864) 203-1164

Debbie Bell to Retire as Executive Director of South Carolina Children’s Theatre

Photo credit: Greenville Headshots

South Carolina Children’s Theatre (SCCT) announced today that after 34 years of service, Debbie Bell, Executive Director, has decided to retire. The Board of Directors of South Carolina Children’s Theatre has organized a search committee to find Ms. Bell’s replacement, who will serve in the role of Managing Director. The organization will adopt a new management structure, with a Managing Director co-leading SCCT with Artistic Director, Matt Giles. Ms. Bell will stay on as Executive Director until Fall 2022, when the new Managing Director is expected to be in place.

“The impact of Debbie’s leadership and her legacy at SCCT cannot be overstated,” says Kathryn Freedman, Board Chair of SCCT. “She has spent her career ensuring all children of the Upstate are exposed to the benefits the dramatic and musical arts provide, and she has created a culture of empowerment and belonging. While saddened by Debbie’s retirement, the SCCT Board of Directors and supporting staff are confident that our new management structure, with Matt Giles continuing as co-leader of the organization, will facilitate a smooth transition. Thanks to the strong foundation Debbie has built, SCCT will continue to thrive as we look toward our future.”

Before joining the team at South Carolina Children’s Theatre, Ms. Bell worked in the banking industry, at IBM, and at Coldwell Banker Caine. Her first interactions with SCCT were as a parent volunteer. “My children were performing in productions and I simply fell in love with it. I started volunteering and realized my heart was here,” says Bell. By 1989, Ms. Bell was promoted from volunteer to Business Manager of SCCT. In 1999, she was promoted to Executive Director, and thus began a career that has now impacted generations of children and families in the Upstate of South Carolina.

While SCCT has been forced to limit capacity and/or put certain programs on hold over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pre-COVID, the theatre consistently served more than 50,000 children and families per year through its theatrical productions, year-round education classes, and community outreach programs. “We have grown to be so much more than a performance theatre,” says Ms. Bell. “Through our Conservatory for Theatre Arts, we provide professional educational programs for children ages 3-18. In these classes, we teach and help students develop performance, communication, cooperation, self-discipline, and critical thinking skills. Simultaneously, our community outreach programs help us make sure that even our most vulnerable neighbors can enjoy, and benefit, from our theatrical and educational programming as well.”

While the average tenure of an Executive Director is 6 years, Ms. Bell’s 23-year tenure as Executive Director (and 34 years of total service) at SCCT has made her an icon of the Greenville arts community, where she has built hundreds of partnerships that have helped mold the theatre into what it is today. Her close friend and colleague, Alan Ethridge, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Arts Council, says of Ms. Bell’s legacy: “For the last 23 years, Debbie Bell has been an amazing leader and trailblazer in Greenville’s arts community. Debbie has played a significant role in ensuring that the next generation of actors, theatre technicians, donors, volunteers, and supporters are being cultivated to take our thriving Greenville arts community to new heights in the future.”

Under Ms. Bell’s leadership, South Carolina Children’s Theatre has won numerous awards and distinctions for its high standards of artistic leadership and excellence, including the SC Secretary of State Angel Award (2003), the SCTA Founder’s Award (2010), the SCTA Theatre of Distinction Award (2018), and the Community Foundation of Greenville’s Leadership in Arts Award (2020).

While Ms. Bell’s work at SCCT has made an indelible and positive impact on hundreds of thousands of children and parents, she has also made an indelible and positive impact on the City of Greenville, as she leaves behind a brand new, state-of-the-art theatre facility that will allow South Carolina Children’s Theatre to flourish for generations to come. After many years of operating out of warehouses, government buildings, and eventually the Gunter Theatre at the Peace Center, in 2010, the theatre was given an unexpected and remarkable gift. Local arts patron and friend of Ms. Bell, Ms. Josephine Cureton, bequeathed her home and plot of land in downtown Greenville to South Carolina Children’s Theatre, under one condition: the organization would need to raise funding to erect a theatre of its own. Never one to shy from a challenge, between 2014-2020, Ms. Bell worked with a team of community volunteers on a capital campaign that raised over $14 million for the new building from private and corporate donors, foundations, the City, the County, and the State. “Debbie was the driving force at the helm of the capital campaign,” says Minor Shaw, co-chair of SCCT’s capital campaign. “Her vision, passion, and commitment to SCCT were essential in making the campaign a success and ensuring a strong future for South Carolina Children’s Theatre!”

In collaboration with local architects Craig Gaulden Davis, and the team at Triangle Construction, the new South Carolina Children’s Theatre was completed April 2020 and stands at 153 Augusta Street, across from Gather GVL. And while the COVID-19 pandemic thwarted plans for a grand opening, SCCT plans to have a 35-year anniversary “homecoming celebration” this fall 2022, in conjunction with Ms. Bell’s retirement. “As conditions become safer, we are excited to fling open our doors and welcome the community into our theatre in a big way this fall. It is important to us that the community feels at home at SCCT now, and into the future,” says Bell.

With the new building in place, SCCT is poised for its next stages of growth. Ms. Bell couldn’t be more excited about the vision of Artistic Director, Matt Giles. “Matt is a true visionary,” says Bell. “He is a skilled collaborator, bridge builder, and champion for the critical role SCCT plays in the Greenville arts community. It has been an honor to work alongside him. As the principal steward of SCCT’s mission and vision, Matt works tirelessly to create a culture that attracts talented artists and the resources necessary to produce work at an increasingly impressive level of artistic achievement. The organization is in good hands,” says Bell.

Working in partnership over the past 3 years, and navigating the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic together, Ms. Bell and Mr. Giles were a formidable team. “Debbie Bell is a force,” says Mr. Giles. “I have had the opportunity to work with theatre leaders from across the country and have rarely met a leader with her drive, compassion, and vision. She is an icon in this community and it has been an absolute joy collaborating with her for the past two years. Because of her tireless efforts, SCCT is set up for success for many years to come. I will dearly miss working alongside her, but I am so appreciative of all that she has done for this organization and this community.”

In addition to her role as Executive Director at SCCT, Ms. Bell has served on numerous community Boards throughout the years, including: PTAs of several Greenville County Schools, Converse College Alumni Board, Downtown Soccer Association, West End Association Board, Caine Halter YMCA Board, YMCA Metro Board, and the Non-profit Alliance Steering Committee. She was co-founder of the Caine Halter Lungs for Life 5K, the precursor to Run4Life, where she continues to be involved. She currently serves on the Metropolitan Arts Council Board as head of the Cultural Coalition. In recognition of her contributions to the Greenville community, Ms. Bell received the Metropolitan Arts Council (MAC) Visionary Award (2013), and has also been named to Greenville Business Magazine’s “50 Most Influential 2019” and “Most Influential Hall of Fame 2020.”

On top of her many accolades, accomplishments, and contributions to the arts community of the City of Greenville, perhaps the most important part of Ms. Bell’s legacy remains in the lasting relationships she has built as a leader, a mentor, and a friend to so many – inspiring an entire generation of Greenvillians to appreciate and grow from the arts. Ms. Bell’s deep passion and loyalty to serving children and families will always be a part of South Carolina Children’s Theatre. “I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to lead this amazing organization, and I can’t wait to see how the theatre will grow, evolve, and continue to positively impact the community in the years to come. The future is bright for South Carolina Children’s Theatre.”

Click here to send Debbie Bell your well wishes!

Photo credit: Kris Decker/Firewater Photography

Founded in 1987 by Ric Standridge, South Carolina Children’s Theatre has impacted the lives of children and families in the Upstate community through theatre, educational classes and workshops, and accessible outreach initiatives. Each year, South Carolina Children’s Theatre produces and performs five high quality, live theatre performances featuring children and adults on its Bell MainStage. The theatre also produces three-four additional shows and other special events on its more intimate Younts 2nd Stage. Throughout the year, SCCT offers professional year-round education in the dramatic arts for children ages 3 to 18, as well as educational outreach to low-income and special needs children. For more information about South Carolina Children’s Theatre, please visit:

Contact info:

Kate Fowler
Director of Development & Marketing
South Carolina Children’s Theatre
[email protected]
Address: 153 Augusta Street, Greenville, SC 29601
Office Phone: (864) 203-1164


Traysie Amick Returns as the Cat in the Hat at South Carolina Children’s Theatre 

By: Margaret Butler

Photo by Will Crooks

“Why do you sit there like that?” Cat asks. “I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny!” 

Playful, encouraging, and slightly mischievous, Traysie Amick exemplifies her starring role as the Cat in Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, which returns to the stage at South Carolina Children’s Theatre March 4-13. Amick has been playing Cat since 1999 when she first joined the team at SCCT. Since then, she has revived the role in 20 Character Breakfasts, the 1st Annual Characters in Concert, and SCCT’s 2015 production. It’s safe to say, Amick balances lots of hats, and not just the classic red-and-white-striped one! Simultaneously, Amick teaches and mentors hundreds of students per year through SCCT’s Theatre Conservatory and Outreach programs. She personifies the Cat’s best qualities onstage and off.     

Amick admits that she does her best work in this show. Her love for her students emanates throughout her performance. Years of photographs prove that. “I met so many of my now-students at the Character Breakfast as the Cat in the Hat. Parents today will bring cherished pictures of the tiny version of their child with me as Cat. Though the makeup looks a little different now over 20 years,” Amick quips. 

Amick feels a deep level of responsibility for the upcoming production of The Cat in the Hat. Two key artistic creatives involved in the last 2015 production, SCCT Teaching Artist Jason Bryant and Prop and Set Designer Kim Granner, have since passed. These losses were profound for SCCT. Each creative brought a key component to crafting the magic of the show. Kim had a hand in every single prop or set piece and Jason’s talent brought the Fish to life. “Knowing that we had lost Jason and Kim, it was hard to say ‘yes’ to doing the show again, but I took it as an opportunity to light a candle for these brilliant artists,” says Amick. 

Beyond the theatre’s great love and history with the production, audiences may wonder: can Dr. Seuss’s treasured illustrations, rhythm, and rhyme leap off the pages into reality? The answer is yes. With cartoon sound effects, magically appearing objects, pantomime, and sleight of hand, kids will be at the edge of their seats as they watch this beloved children’s book come to life.

Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat runs at South Carolina Children’s Theatre from March 4th – 13th with showtimes at 10:30 am, 2:00 pm, 4:30 pm, and 7:00 pm. Tickets are $20. Box office: 864-235-2885 or