Bring Live Theater to Chadds Ford

Bring Live Theater to Chadds Ford

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Erin Smith started this petition to Pennsbury Township

Teen depression is at an all-time high. Suicide is on the rise. Vaping is killing at an alarming rate. Obesity is an epidemic. Screen addiction is a real and tangible threat for ages 2-102. And particularly for ages 10-18, there is little to do outside of going to school and playing computer games. Gone are the days of roaming the neighborhood and riding bikes.

My 13-yo son was depressed, suicidal, and so addicted to screens that he wanted nothing more than to disappear into one and never emerge. After despairing with metal health professionals and teachers and fellow parents, I finally dragged him to a rehearsal I was directing at a theater far from our home. He hated it, he hated me, but he went. And an amazing thing happened... slowly, he began to hate it less. He made friends. Non-judgmental, open, caring, honest, kind friends. Friends who didn't care that he wore the same sweatshirt every day or never showered or talked funny or even whether he was any good on stage; friends who were only interested in what made him unique. And he has finally started to crawl out of the hole of self-loathing.

The real magic of theater is the following irony: the less you "fit in," the more you will fit in. Anyone who has every participated in theater on any level - actor, backstage, production, sets, audience, patron, etc. - knows how challenging and fulfilling it can be to be involved. One must tap his/her inner courage, step out of boxes, explore their sympathies, find their empathy, become physical, set goals and expectations, meet deadlines... AND NONE OF IT CAN HAPPEN WITH A SCREEN IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE. It can feel like a modern-day miracle, this fulfilling, whole-person endeavor that requires zero technology.

I do not mean to suggest that theater can or will be society's savior; but in a world where we all interact less and less with each other and our environment, theater may just be the salve that our weary souls are seeking. And it is this experience, this stepping away from the rat race, this creation of something bigger than ourselves and yet is so intimate and timeless, this THEATER VIBE that I believe is what our area and our children need. More than the thousand activities or extra tutoring sessions or one more video game. They need mindful, wholesome and fun interaction with peers and role models. And frankly, as our area is rife with affluence and arts appreciation, the time for a local theater could not be more perfect.

I have a lifetime of experience onstage, backstage and as a director or producer of theater. I have extensive working knowledge of working with children and adolescents in a theatrical setting. And I have connections - local and national - in theater, education, instrumental music, musicals, opera, operetta and sound recording, to name a few. I have vetted and chosen a location with room for productions, classes, recording sessions, rehearsals and set design and building. I have the vision for creating a safe and creative environment for children, teens and families to produce theatrical productions and a lifetime of memories. What I don't have is the capital to fund it all. Help me help these kids, this community, and yourself. Help me make this dream a reality!

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