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Beth Reeves Talks 'Last Stop on Market Street' Opening This Week at Riverside Theatre

There is a children's production opening this week at Columbus State University's Riverside Theatre that is an absolute must see. Last Stop on Market Street is a musical filled to the brim with humanity, compassion and a lot of soul. The music is catchy and presented in a variety of accessible styles that will pull kids in from the first beat. It's like Hamilton's orchestra met up with the writers of Sesame Street and brought about this masterpiece for children and families.

We were lucky enough to be invited for a preview performance of the show and got a chance to speak with the production's director, Beth Reeves. An educator and actor herself, Reeves is no stranger to the process of directing. Her rapport with the students was evident from the first moment of rehearsals, and the product they've all achieved together is undeniably exceptional.

Read on to learn more about the show, Reeves' experience working with the cast and what she hopes each audience member takes away from Last Stop on Market Street.

Beth Reeves, Director.

Q: This is such a RICH show. Did you select it, or was this a project you were asked to direct for CSU?

A: This beautiful project was selected by CSU. I was so honored when asked to direct this masterpiece! It's a story about CJ visiting his Nana! We go along this journey within Nana's community and how differences/diversity is celebrated. However, CJ still has a lot of lessons to learn when it comes to being grateful and helping other people. The community bus helps CJ along the way! Music is used as a tool to teach CJ the importance of giving.

I believe what makes it rich is the culture within the text/music. This is a story about a young person on a journey (literally and figuratively). But aren't we all? In a way, it's a children's story but it's also a story that will bring an adult back to the good times of their childhood. If one pays close attention, there are proverbs throughout this entire piece that will remind you that life is to be celebrated at all times- even the hard moments. It's a rich production because it CELEBRATES diversity! It's Bright! It's Bold! It's Community! It's a production that Columbus needs. Interestingly, this production will be on tour this spring (Tuesdays and Thursdays) traveling to thousands of children at elementary schools who have never been exposed to the arts. That's really why it's rich! Know someone who's interested in booking a show at their school? Please contact Brenda Ito in the CSU Theatre Department!

So, the word journey is very important when speaking about this production.

Q: Who is your student director, and what does this kind of partnership entail?

A: The wonderful D'miya Richburg is my co-director. I met her in my African-American Performance class that I teach here at CSU this past fall. I teach about African Griots in the class and how it is the role of the griot to pass along important information from generation to generation. Therefore, Dmiya and I are modeling (through our directing) West African Griot relationships. I apply my pedagogy in the rehearsal space, which is based heavily off of West African storytelling techniques. It's through this process that Dmiya is also learning leadership.

I don't believe in doing anything alone. I believe in honoring ancestors who came before. I believe that they are always with me. Therefore, Dmiya is just as much of a director as I am. I refer to everyone in the space as artists! We are all equal. We are all still learning. I learn from her, as I'm sure she has learned from me. She was involved with every production meeting, every cast meeting, and every rehearsal. She will completely take over this opening week as I have a teaching residency at the University of Mississippi Department of Theatre and Film as a guest teacher/director.

The production is in good hands. It's in the hands of an African Griot who knows the importance behind storytelling and our responsibility as artists.

"He who learns teaches."-Ethiopian Proverb.

Q: Your cast is incredibly talented. What has surprised you the most about them? Why?

A: Yes, they are. They are also incredibly caring and creative! I overheard them talking about culture, how proverbs are seen throughout the script, and checking-in with each other during breaks. I believe it's because of this that this production is so incredibly strong. Not only just the cast but stage management! We all have become a family. Seriously. I see their heart when they perform/stage manage. Their cast bond is incredibly strong. At times, I don't have to say anything. They already know what I'm about to say before I say it. They are so in-tuned with each other. (Also-during every rehearsal we are laughing hysterically. It's a fun creative space.)

Co-director D'miya Richburg and production members laugh during a fun and lively warm-up for the cast before running the show.

Q: Why do you feel this is a show that will impact your audience? What do you hope kids and adults will take away from this production?

A: I directed this piece non-traditionally. Meaning, I directed from this word we call soul. Soul can't be taught. It's a feeling. It moves you. It's unspoken. It's spiritual. It's foot-stompin' and hand-clappin'. Most times the script was down and our hearts were open. Once you have experienced it you are never the same (for the better). Because of that, I believe the audience will be moved. Not only physically but to see the world in a different light/perspective! I believe souls will be moved in a way they have never experienced here at CSU.

There is hip-hop and gospel within this script. I love that because these sounds tie right back to Africa. We held workshops for the cast that center around West Africa and Afro-Cuban topics. The audience will feel that.

We are partnering with the Chispa (CSU Student Organization on campus that supports the Hispanic student population) and the CSU Food Pantry for this production. Not only are the characters in the story giving back to the community but we are giving back to the CSU community.

I hope that people bring an open heart and an open mind in order to take away how YOU can help your community while celebrating differences. The audience is just as important as the actors/production.

Q) What else would you like our audience to know before they see Last Stop on Market Street?

A: Bring a friend! Come prepared to sing, dance, laugh, learn, hug your family when you see them, and be transformed! That's what art does! It's SOULFUL!

Also, I'd love to promote the food drive that we have for the CSU Food Pantry. It is very important to me. If someone comes to see a production, I'd love for them to please bring canned goods to donate! All information is on the CSU Department of Theatre and Dance social media channels. ◾️

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