Something magical happens each spring in Cherokee County elementary schools. Cafeterias and gymnasiums become the stage for imagination and whimsy. The Lorax arrives, followed by Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan. Through RepTouR—the Woodstock Arts Repertory Touring Troupe—students also get to watch their own creative visions come to life.
“Our goal with RepTouR is to promote literacy and creative writing through performing arts by dramatizing the students’ stories and staging stories they may already know,” says Kyle Eason, Woodstock Arts theatre education manager and RepTouR troupe director.
Siobhan Brumbelow, the previous Woodstock Arts education manager, developed RepTouR after spending a year touring with the Missoula Children’s Theatre. She explains, “I wanted a way to bring arts to the schools through storytelling and provide it for free. All students needed was to bring their imagination.”
With grants from sources such as the National Endowment for the Arts, Siobhan began the troupe as a subsidiary of the Towne Lake Arts Center Improv Troupe, now Woodstock Improv Troupe, and then spun off as RepTouR in 2016. Prior to the show, RepTouR provides teachers with a standards-based “story builder” that allows students to write creative stories. When RepTouR arrives, the actors first perform a show and then take previously unseen student stories and perform them improv-style.
Kristina Gault is the longest-standing troupe member and has seen firsthand the impact RepTouR has on students. “Even just seeing us unload [equipment], the kids are excited,” says Kristina. “When we [perform] their stories, it’s almost like their minds are blown that they’re able to write something and then see it. We bring the visual to them.”
Siobhan adds, “The students are welcoming of whoever’s story it is. Kids have the craziest imaginations.”
Bringing the Lorax to life
RepTouR performed at thirteen schools last year, timed to tie in with Read Across America. This spring the troupe is staging The Lorax and a tall-tale mash-up.
“The Lorax is a show with strong artistic merit and a story we want to tell the kids time and time again,” says Kyle. “The tall-tale adaptation is about the ways we use language to exaggerate, to stretch the truth of a person that became larger than one singular person by telling and retelling [the person’s story]. This speaks strongly to what we do as a touring theater program.”
“We have a good mixture of actors and educators who are actors on the team,” says Kristina. “As an educator I know how to talk to the kids, and as an actor I know how to bring [stories] to life.”
Kyle intends to expand RepTouR to cover a full semester, bring the tour to more schools, and develop a program aimed at older students. For now, RepTouR is still taking reservations for the 2023 spring season.
“Making something you thought about real is the magic of theater and the arts,” says Kyle. “It’s really special to wake up and start the day doing theater for really excited kids.”
What Educators Are Saying
“I love that theatre gives another platform for students to display what they have learned and express their emotions. I have seen classrooms transform with arts integration; the depth of knowledge that can be achieved by using an art medium is very impactful. We value partnerships like the one we have with Woodstock Arts and RepTouR to help our students connect our standards and content with the fine arts and opportunities of performances.” — Principal Ashley Polito, Holly Springs Elementary STEM Academy
“Our fourth and fifth grade teachers look forward to this experience as much as our students do! It is so much fun to see our fourth graders watch RepTouR for the first time, and our fifth graders enjoy the opportunity to see the group again. They laugh out loud, and the teachers do too … The excitement that they show when their writing has been selected is always a wonderful moment!” — Amy VanFossen, Media Specialist, Woodstock Elementary School
“RepTouR provides an opportunity for students to see their stories come to life. It allows for a real-world application to story writing and imaginative storytelling. It is a great way to connect the arts to English language arts as well as social studies.” — Joe Lemmo, teacher, Holly Springs Elementary STEM Academy
See The Magic
RepTouR performances in Cherokee County schools begin March 1 and conclude April 28. Reservations are still available for the 2023 season through firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Susan Overcash Walker is a freelance writer and former engineer based in Woodstock, where she lives with her husband, two children and very fluffy dog. She has worked as a staff writer and editor, and her short fiction has been published in The Tulane Review, Whiskey Island, Crimewave and other journals.