Q&A with Mr. Roberson: A Closer Look at SCL Theatre
You may have seen the announcement this week that the Saline County Library (SCL) will be offering two theatre classes via Zoom: SCL Theatre: The Rising Star Players and Drama Zoom. In past years, SCL Theatre was known as Children’s Theater and was open to ages 9-12. This year, the class has extended the age limit to 18.
Drama Zoom will serve as a beginner’s acting class and remains limited to ages 9-12.
I was excited to hear that this opportunity for youth would continue despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, but also, that the program has grown to include teens.
It is not difficult to imagine that Zoom meetings will make for a unique acting experience, and regarding SCL Theatre, it will be inspiring to see how a more diverse group of tweens and teens come together to reach their goal of performing for the community once the pandemic is over.
I reached out to Brian Roberson, one of the teachers of SCL Theatre and Drama Zoom, to see what led to the extension of the age limit, and to find out how the pandemic will affect the program.
“I am a big believer in not limiting anything due to a person’s age. If there is an interest, I think anyone should be able to pursue anything they wish to, young or old, theatre or otherwise.”
Q: What prompted the library to extend the age limit of SCL Theatre: The Rising Star Players to include teens this year?
A: I am a big believer in not limiting anything due to a person’s age. If there is an interest, I think anyone should be able to pursue anything they wish to, young or old, theatre or otherwise. Throughout last year I had heard from some of the other librarians that other patrons, not affiliated with homeschool or even in the age range, were very interested in the program we were running with my actors. It really bummed me out that there just wasn’t a way to include them in what we were doing at the time. Until COVID hit us in March, I felt like the program last year, which was just ages 9-12, was going so well that there was no reason not to give the opportunity to anyone else who might be interested the following year. While things have to be a little different because of this pandemic, I still didn’t want to take away an opportunity from anyone willing to learn and the library allowed me to still push forward with theatre for ages 9-18 as we had planned.
Q: How were you first introduced to theater and how long have you been acting?
A: I guess technically I first found theatre in elementary school. We had school plays every other year. I really liked those but I still didn’t understand what I was doing was theatre until much later. We were just kids doing a play back then. There was no real emphasis on learning. It was just a ‘say your lines for your parents and look cute’ kind of thing. My senior year in high school was no different. I knew I liked doing the couple of plays as a little kid so I really wanted to do that one as well. Theatre didn’t click for me until the summer after my graduation, I was dragged to the Royal Theatre by another person I had met in my senior play and that’s when I started to learn, ‘Oh this is theatre. Oh, this is what you should know when you audition, when you perform, when you prepare for a character.’ I fell for it so hard. It’s been about 12 years now and it’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done with my life.
“This is not a one size fits all kind of thing. We are going to learn what skills you have from the very beginning and grow you from there.”
Q: Should students have experience in acting before joining SCL Theatre? If so, how much experience?
A: If anyone joining us has any experience, that’s great, this program is tailor-made for who I have in the class, so it definitely won’t be a waste of time for a ‘veteran’ actor. On the flip side, if someone has zero experience, we are fully prepared to build them from the ground up. This is not a one size fits all kind of thing. We are going to learn what skills you have from the very beginning and grow you from there. I would warn anyone signing up, that it doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or a veteran actor, you should plan for a lot of hard work and a lot of sweat. Quality shows are not made in a day.
Q: What is most exciting about the opportunity to teach students this year in SCL Theatre?
A: Honestly, with my own growth as an instructor, I’m most excited to see just how close I can push my students to a performance worthy level. I want people to say they would have paid good money to watch an SCL Theatre show. This program isn’t just to have a good time. While I want everyone to enjoy what they’re doing, we are here with the goal to perform a quality show. In my experience, I have seen 8-year-old children put fully grown adults to shame with their performance ability. I hold these same high expectations for all of my students. I want them to be amazing and I want them to be proud of the performances they will put on. It’s going to be very exciting to see where they start out as actors to what they will become while learning under us at SCL Theatre.
“…maybe this is all less of a challenge and more of an opportunity for the students to better prepare for their futures as actors or otherwise.”
Q: What challenges does COVID-19 create for the class?
A: With COVID-19 the biggest hurdle is making live theatre virtual. Our communication has to be on point with every critique and direction given. I can’t just get up and show them every little thing as they are not directly in front of me on a taped-off stage. There’s a connection that you get when you’re live and in person, that connection with theatre is very important to understand as an actor. While I feel like things will run more smoothly than I anticipate, connecting with everyone is my biggest worry. Zoom puts me at the mercy of Internet connections. I know the library is fully prepared for this as we use Zoom for our own private meetings, but anyone on the other side of their computers may not be as technologically sound as us. I don’t want anyone missing out on anything. While these challenges can make the program rougher than normal for some, it’s by overcoming challenges in any nature that an actor can become more confident in themselves. Confidence is key in theatre. So maybe this is all less of a challenge and more of an opportunity for the students to better prepare for their futures as actors or otherwise.
Register for SCL Theatre: The Rising Star Players here.
Register for Drama Zoom here.
Space is limited!
For more information about library services and programs visit www.SalineCountyLibrary.org or call 501-778-4766.
Anna Colby is a high school senior. She enjoys consuming ungodly amounts of green tea and banging her head on her desk until a new idea pops into her mind and she can write once again. She also enjoys petting her dog. See a list of all her columns at www.mysaline.com/anna.