Thursday, May 19, 2011

Melanie Buchanan: An interview

After seven exciting, entertaining years, Melanie Buchanan will leave her position as director of Civic Youth Theatre at the end of May, when she will travel with her husband, Jason, to Lima, Peru.

Friends are invited to a reception in Melanie's honor from 6 until 9 p.m. Sunday, May 22, at Adelino's Old World Kitchen.

After surviving her last semester at Purdue — and finals, Melanie received her second bachelor's degree and then took some time to answer questions about her time at Civic Theatre.

Question: You initiated several new programs during your years as youth director — after-school activities at local elementary schools, additional outreach programs, youth acting troupe, and others. Can you talk about the benefits of those types of programs to the students/youth?
Melanie Buchanan: I think it is important for children to have positive role models and activities that they care about in their lives — some kids are great athletes, but others have interest in arts or theatre or dance or whatnot. I often think these children get left behind, because either their parents don't know how to get them involved (or don't know about theatre/arts/etc. at all) or they don't have the time to get their child to and from rehearsals/classes. Everyone needs a place where they feel important, respected and talented, and I think many kids find that at Civic (or at least I hope they do). The more activities children are involved in, the less time they have out on the streets or sitting at home or watching TV. It keeps them healthy, active and goal-oriented. It makes them care and want to succeed, helps boost their egos and self-esteem, and everyone knows that teenagers sometimes need a little encouragement in the self-esteem area.

Q: Has there been one outreach program or experience that really stands out, and if so, what was it and why?
M.B.: I am really glad that I started First Class Only (acting troupe). I think it's really cool to be able to take the troupe out to schools that don't have theatre arts in their curriculum. Many of the schools where they have performed had never had a live performance, let alone by a group of teenagers. It's also fun to watch the troupe members interact with their peers or the younger students, stepping out as a leaders and role models for them.

Q: In general, how does involvement with the arts and with community theatre benefit children?
M.B.: It helps build self-esteem, confidence, teamwork, collaboration. It keeps them busy. Often they meet people they may never have encountered in their "normal" every day lives.

Q: Is there a favorite among the shows you've directed?
M.B.: I liked both of the Shakespeare plays a lot. I learned so much from the kids, and I think they learned a lot from me. I also really enjoyed Dirty Work at the Crossroads, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and How to Eat Like a Child. The summer camp musicals will also be near and dear to my heart, since that program was my little blossoming flower (LOL).

Q: What have you learned as director of Civic Youth Theatre?
M.B.: More than I can express:
* Patience with children and adults (or at least more patience than I started with).
* Listening, really listening to what the children told me (as well as them chattering away backstage, which always drives me batty).
* How each child is different and has to be approached differently: once you get to know a child/teenager/person, you have to handle them as an individual, understand them in their own way. Blanket terms or issues never work.
* The differences and uniqueness are what makes each person who they are, and those characteristics should be praised. Never be embarrassed at who you are.
* That I became attached to every child and parent, way more then I had ever anticipated I would.

Q: What do you hope you have taught the youth who have been part of CYT shows and programs?
M.B.: You are who you are, embrace it and love yourself for it, even if others don't understand it.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to say as you move on?
M.B.: That I will miss this program dearly, the theatre and all those who have helped me — the children, the parents, the volunteers, etc. And that I can only hope that if my child wants to do theatre (God help them), that I could find a place as safe and inviting as Civic.

Special thanks to Julie Rosa for speaking with Melanie and writing this blog post.

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