Why are we different?
I began The Tweedlie Center for the Arts with dreams of becoming a huge theatre with hundreds, even thousands of actors! I'd put on Broadway caliber shows and I'd have a multi-million dollar facility but as TCARiverside grew we became something different, something I'm much more proud of...
When we opened our doors, or rather the doors to Orange Terrace Community Center, in early 2013 we offered one class and had 23 students enrolled! Our first production was Disney's The Aristocats Kids and boy, if you were there, it was truly a sight to see. We had to stop the production to get some tiny actors on stage, we had only one set of lights so the stage was dark, we had no head mics, and our sets were the epitome of home made but that day as I sat in the front row and directed my kiddos where to go, when to sing, and fed a lot of lines... I realized we were different, we were special. Most of these kids had never been on a stage, much less sang, dance and had a speaking part in front of people! I realized that I didn't need to be a Broadway caliber theatre, I wanted to be a place that made a difference in the lives of the kids I had the pleasure of teaching.
I was 16 years old when I had my first real taste of musical theatre, I played Belle in a production of Beauty & the Beast. It was an amazing, enlightening and difficult experience; one that led me on the path to become essentially much of who I am today. I had never been a quiet girl, I'd always been outgoing and I had been singing and performing since I was 6 but theatre was something special. Never before had I been able to connect music with feelings so naturally and so deeply. Theatre has made me more outgoing, well-spoken... it's given me leadership qualities, I never could've gotten anywhere else. It's introduced me to some of my closest and greatest friends, it has filled my weekends and weeks with so much joy, whether it be rehearsals or going to see shows. Theatre has taught me how to deal with defeat in every way; I didn't always get the lead, in fact, after signing with an agency, I auditioned for the National Tour of Wicked didn't book it, got called back a year later specifically for Glinda, and still didn't book it. I've been told "No" way more times than "Yes" and I've played Ensemble, Supporting and back stage parts. For me, theatre isn't about being the star... theatre is about so much more than that. It's about sharing a story with an audience, getting to do what makes you happy, making friends, overcoming obstacles, and being part of a team.
That, I believe, is why TCARiverside is different than other theatres, local or not. We don't always cast the girl with the greatest voice in the lead part, we might cast the girl who has great leadership qualities or maybe the girl we want to give a chance. For us, it's not about the number of speaking parts or solos, it's about sharing the love of theatre and giving our students something more than a solo, giving them life skills they can take with them to whatever career or life path they choose. Would we love it if one our students was a Broadway star? OF COURSE! But we will be proud of them no matter the path they choose! We hope that we're making a difference beyond the stage and into our student's home life, their school life, and their social life.
If you're looking for a theatre that always casts the same girl in the lead, that doesn't split casts to give another child an opportunity, or that doesn't try to give every parent a chance to see their kiddo shine then maybe we aren't the place for you and that's okay! We try to be as fair as we possibly can and that is hands down the hardest thing we have to do; if everyone could be "Elsa." we would make everyone Elsa, but we have an entire show to put up, not just 40 variations of "Let It Go"! If you knew the heartache that goes into casting a show... How do you give a child an ensemble part when they've been a lead prior? How do we give this student a solo but not this student? Who's going to be able to learn their lines without us prompting them? Who can be responsible backstage? This child's a great singer but they struggle with their acting, where do we put them? The questions and the combinations of casts are endless and we want everyone to be happy!
We love each and every one of our students and we LOVE what we do; whether you're new or old to TCARiverside, we appreciate you giving us the opportunity to teach your children. We are always going to work to make each show better than the last, and we still dream of that multi-million dollar theater, but we want to fill it with our well-spoken, problem solving, respectful, outgoing and talented students! We hope you'll continue this journey with us, because we are just getting started...