January 4, 2010

Imaginarium takes theater into North Philly schools

Junior theater major Steff Cryor created a troupe for city school children who don’t receive significant exposure to the arts

Steff Cryor and Mask Director Alison Hoban pose with the cast of East of the Sun, West of the Moon.

Steff Cryor grew up surrounded by the arts.

As a child, the junior theater education major from Pittsburgh would have birthday parties at the local children’s theater, where she would eventually become a regular performer.

It was a logical next step when she arrived at Temple’s School of Communications and Theater her freshman year to join a touring Shakespeare group that went into Philadelphia public schools.

But what she saw there gave her pause.

“The students really didn’t get that much exposure to the arts,” she says.

Cryor immediately went to Professor David Ingram to see if she and her fellow theater students could do more to expose the children of the Philadelphia school system to the arts. What resulted was a 50-minute interactive show based on the Scandinavian fairy tail East of the Sun and West of the Moon. She and her cast and crew performed for Kindergarten classes in the city and “the kids really responded to it.”

The Magic Brocade, a Chinese folktale, followed the next year with a budget to allow for a portable fabric set and more elaborate costumes.

And in December 2008, Cryor received a Provost Commission on the Arts grant to formalize her group under the name Imaginarium. The grant requires projects be interdisciplinary, so Cryor recruited students from the Film and Media Arts Department, as well as the Tyler School of Art’s Architecture Department. As Imaginarium, the troupe has created three shows – one based on Native American folklore, another on African folklore and a third original work dealing with the issues of peer pressure, self confidence and acceptance of people’s differences.

Post by Jeff Cronin for the  School of Communications and Theater.

To read the complete article visit the SCT News & Events site

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