My daughter, a second-grader at Salem’s Carlton Innovation School, has always loved “A Christmas Carol.” I never understood why until I took her to see the North Shore Music Theatre’s production last year. I was floored. She was emotionally involved in Scrooge’s redemption in the way only a 6-year-old could be: She wanted him to be happy and have lots of friends.
Seeing a man reborn onstage can help my daughter with her own, real-world relationships in the classroom and at the park. So, too, the children involved in Carlton’s new nonprofit theater program will gain new skills and insights through participating onstage and behind the scenes.
Carlton parent and actor Scott Fortier first proposed the idea.
“My wife, September, and I have participated in small professional theater for over 20 years,” Fortier told me. “It has enriched our lives and brought joy to our everyday experience. I very much wanted to share that experience with the kids of the Carlton Innovation School, and found a small group of dedicated teachers and parents who felt the same.”
The theater company became a reality last year, when Fortier helped bring several live performances to the school, including Senegalese drummers and Chinese acrobats. This year, the program will continue its mission: to foster creativity, confidence and cooperation in our children. Several parents, myself included, have joined the company’s parent volunteer corps.
Our short-term goals are to address the mission via our in-progress schoolwide production of “Willy Wonka Jr.” and by bringing live theater assemblies to Carlton. In the long term, we will be adding a playwriting program for older students. This will allow students to write their own 10-minute plays centered on their own everyday experiences, to be performed by local actors for the school. Shawna Erps, reading specialist at Carlton, notes that children are “more motivated and invested in writing if they are writing for a real-world purpose and not a grade from a teacher.” Erps goes on to say that the new Common Core Standards include script writing.