Written by Carrie Beth Wallace
Sally Baker is a Springer kid. The young mother of two grew up in Columbus, and graduated from Hardaway High School. She then went on to the University of Georgia and then to the University to Texas to study Drama and Theatre for Youth. Saying she knows the ropes of children's theatre is an understatement, but it's her commitment to teaching lessons that last beyond the stage that has impacted so many.
Baker has been on and off the Springer stage since 1984, and now she's helping to raise the next generation of actors and educators coming behind her. She is the founder and director of the Springer’s PAIR Program, an arts integration program working in a number of local elementary schools, as well as the Director of the Springer Children’s Theatre and Theatre Academy.
Baker and her team debut 101 Dalmatians tonight in McClure Theatre after massive flooding last week threatened to postpone the show's opening. Never easily deterred, the Springer team has banded together to ready the show in a theatre running off a generator you'll never even know is there.
Read our full interview with Baker to learn why she chose this particular show, who's in the cast, and the ways Springer is partnering with other local organizations to make a bigger difference this spring.
Q: Why did you choose 101 Dalmatians for this year's children's production this season? I know theatre education is always at the forefront of your mind, so what experiences does the show offer your cast that you particularly love?
A: To me, the show is about community. It's about pulling the resources that a community has to work towards something bigger than the individuals. That's what we teach in Academy, too. We emphasize that the ensemble is the most important. That what we do is to make our scene partners look like rock stars. Teaching young people to focus on other people rather than themselves is one of the most important lessons we can teach in my opinion. This thought is at the heart of 101 Dalmatians as well.
To me, the show is about community. It's about pulling the resources that a community has to work towards something bigger than the individuals. That's what we teach in Academy, too.
Q: What can you tell our audience about your cast? Ages? A mix of community and students?
A: The cast is a combination of Academy students, CSU theater students, and adults. All the adults in the show are Academy teachers and understand the opportunity for young people to perform alongside them. This has been a delightful cast to work with and create with.
Q: How has the recent flooding of the Springer impacted your production?
A: The flood and the resulting damage are catastrophic to the Springer. It's serious. The power has been knocked out of the main building including the Dorothy McClure Theater. But as theater artists, we know that if we work together we can figure out solutions. We have worked with our friends at Columbus Water Works, Servpro, and Alexander Electric and they have equipped us with a diesel generator to power the Dorothy McClure Theater. We literally only lost one day of rehearsal and the production team and cast have been fantastic. Everyone is doing what needs to be done to get us across the finish line.
As theater artists, we know that if we work together we can figure out solutions.
Q: What particular challenges have you experienced with this production? What are some triumphs that have happened along the way?
A: This production has been a challenging one in a number of ways. There is a lot of music that is deceptively difficult, lots of choreography, dialects, and a huge cast. This is the largest cast we have ever put in a production in the dot and sometimes we didn't even have the space to rehearse both casts! These challenges have provided us a focus and a direction, however. We have always known that we were tackling a big show, and that we were are united to achieve a common goal.
Q: What else would you like for our audience to know?
A: One of my other favorite parts of the show has come with the contribution of a fantastic assistant director, Nick Rulon. He has added some improvised sections and they keep the show funny and different. We are also partnering with Paws and Animal Ark in town to take donations food and supplies. Our goal is 101 pounds of donations to go to those organizations. Kilwins is also partnering with us and providing some special treats to sell at the shows. Profits from those traits will also go to Paws and Animal Ark. At the Academy, we say that our scene partners are the most important people in the scene. Our scenes expand past the building of the Springer opera house and into our community. If we can help dogs get adopted or fed or more comfortable, we have been successful in making our scene partners important.◼︎
If You Go:
What: 101 Dalmatians
When: February 22, 23, March 1,2, 8, 9 at 7:00 p.m. and February 24, March 2, 3, 9, and 10 at 2:00 p.m.
Where: Springer Opera House, McClure Theatre