Editor, Times-Union:
The Wagon Wheel Theatre is legendary in this area for its growth and involvement in the community. Backstage, near the coffee maker, there is a tribute taped to the wall. It rightly extols the impact of former Artistic Director Roy Hines on a young life. It is a reminder to everyone who sees it that they have big shoes to fill. And, their job, apart from entertaining, is that of mentorship and education.
Just as in every play, regardless of loss, the show must go on, and it has. As a fledgling non-profit, the Wagon Wheel works hard at providing this community the finest quality productions during the summer stock season, as well as a rollicking season with our youth in the junior productions during the fall and winter.
I am familiar with the casts and crews at The Wheel, just as I am familiar with the stellar training and opportunities offered young people in the performing arts in this area within the confines of education.
The reality in all of this is that, it is not a building or location that creates excellence. It is the day-to-day rigor of director/educator that imbues each student with a desire to test their own personal limits. To think on their own, to be better and grow more unique in a society that is rapidly embracing only the desire for increased technology.
And just as in performing arts, the fine arts that reside in our classrooms and the collective galleries of this area are a visual exercise in experiencing the winds of infinity. They, like all the rest, need but an audience. Even Michelangelo would have died unknown had his works been closeted from the world.
The Wagon Wheel Theatre deserves to survive and thrive but not because it is an old building, but because the people that inhabit the place are the legacy of the best that is offered here. They are the theater, not the wood and nails that cover their particular magic. And they could do what they do so well, anywhere.
In our schools, it is art, all kinds of music, theater and vocal programs that fill the hearts and desires of the kids that go through them. All of this makes for a richer community, better people and increased society. And yet, those programs are being cut back in deference to more technology. Certainly, a better balance could and should be found by those in charge.
There is room and growth for all the technophiles and artists in this world. In a perfect world one would feed the other. We are not isolationists. The arts create for the individual the self discipline and desire to attempt great things through challenge and hard work. It is a collaborative effort that grants tremendous personal gain individually while feeding the minds and hearts of the observers.
The entertainment industry has been my muse for more than six decades. I began my career when there was only radio. I see the internal growth in young people when they complete a play, concert, song or monologue and experience that peace of self discovery.
It is important that we create well-rounded individuals that excel in a variety of disciplines. As parents, ask your principal how the class schedules are created so that they both allow AP courses and the arts to inhabit the lives of your children. Support the teachers who actually are allowed to teach off the test grill. Get involved in the variety of programs offered in this community and support them however you can when performances or showings come up. You don’t have to do them all, just begin doing something that is outside your comfort zone. One thing could become the new and different ingredient for your own life.
Humanity is important. It does not come in an iPod, Smartphone or app. It is a living, breathing, fragile entity that offers you the stars. But, you need to own it and nurture it before it becomes a blip on a spread sheet that becomes obsolete. It is your community folks, with so much offered.
Dannielle Robertson