These were all elements of The Birmingham Children’s Theatre’s presentation of “Sacagawea” at Talladega’s Ritz Theatre Friday morning, made available to all of the Talladega City School System’s fifth and sixth graders at no cost whatsoever, thanks to generous sponsors of the event.
Some 800 children had the theatre experience Friday morning, an experience that Salter Elementary School principal Jenni Griffin said was definitely a first for many of her students.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity for the students in so many ways,” she said. “There’s the history content, the live theatre experience, even a social element for them to learn from.”
The Arts in Education Program has always been a big focus for The Ritz Theatre and its governing body, Antique Talladega.
And even though having first class adult entertainment is a big part of the operation as well, when the big yellow school buses pull up out front with their loads of children, it’s always an extra special day for executive director George Culver.
“I felt so good because I saw so many smiling faces coming out of the theatre today,” he said. “Those yellow buses lined up in front of The Ritz, it was a sight that felt beyond good and mixed with optimism for the future.”
Antique Talladega, along with its community supporters, this time being the Callie’s Kids Foundation, the Talladega Kiwanis Club, the Talladega City Schools Foundation along with the Friends of the Ritz, has always pursued reaching out to the area’s youth with arts in education opportunities being a big priority.
“Our Ritz and Antique Talladega board is 100 percent behind anything we can do to enhance the arts opportunities for our school children,” Culver said. “Arts education for our young people will continue as a priority mission for our theatre.”
Dr. Dolia Patterson, coordinator of curriculum instruction for the Talladega City School System, got busy putting together supporting materials for teachers to use for the performance to prepare students for the experience.
This gave classroom teachers resources to use to guide their students to the most profitable and enjoyable experience when seeing the play.
“For them to have access to the arts presents so many excellent opportunities,” Patterson said. “There are so many things they can learn, there’s culture, history, it helps them learn to be creative in their thinking and expression, and in their learning experiences. We are so very fortunate to have this opportunity for our young people in our community. And we are so very appreciative of the sponsors who support us in this.”
Filing out from the theatre after the show, Salter Elementary fifth grader Marqwentic Taylor flashed a big smile saying how he felt about the experience.
“I loved everything about it,” he said. “It was great.”
Schoolmate D’antae Chandler felt the same way.
D’antae especially liked the grand finale to the performance, when Sacagawea wore her six foot “wings” of feathers to say farewell to the presentation.
“That was great,” the fifth grader said.
The youngsters got a lesson in how the young native American woman helped with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, how she braved her way across cultures and assisted in the Louisiana Purchase process to expand the United States to the Pacific Ocean under the presidency of Thomas Jefferson in the 1804 expedition.
The young woman knew the territory, the tribes and the resources that the explorers needed in order to complete their task.
It is believed that she died at the young age of 25, after giving birth to her daughter, Lisette.
“This is such a good thing and the kind of thing we feel is so important for our school children in the community,” Culver said. “The teachers were all so appreciative, and were so pleased for the special educational experience their students had. It’s so good to have the support of the school system, the sponsors and see so many people and entities work together to better educate our young people.”