Read Across America day, a national campaign founded in 1997 by the National Education Association to celebrate reading and promote literacy, will be observed on Wednesday, March 2, the birthday of beloved children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.
In conjunction with Read Across America day, 122 local children and teens of Bravo Creative Arts Center will bring to life the works of Dr. Seuss with their presentation of “Seussical the Musical” from Thursday through Sunday, March 3–6.
“The values taught by Dr. Seuss — helping friends, persistence, keeping promises — are at the heart of Bravo’s story,” says Lissa McHugh, director of Bravo Creative Arts Center. “He believed in peace, the value and dignity of others, and the pure power of the imagination. You will find all these elements in ‘Seussical the Musical.’ ”
“Seussical the Musical” incorporates components from at least 15 Dr. Seuss books, as well as many of his most familiar characters — the Cat in the Hat, Things 1 and 2, Horton the Elephant, Sour Kangaroo and more — as they travel between the Jungle of Nool and the planet of Who.
“The thing about Dr. Seuss that so effectively connects with kids is the energy that Seuss brings to his stories. That energy translates perfectly into musical format. The songs are fun to sing and perform. And it’s such a nice story that the kids really relate to,” McHugh says.
Bravo relies heavily on the support and commitment of the community to present each theatrical production. Faithful Bravo volunteer Karen Hord experienced the positive effects of community theater when her daughter (now 24 years old) participated in Bravo’s production of “Godspell” as a senior in high school. Hord first volunteered to assist McHugh during Bravo’s presentation of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” several years ago.
“Karen asked me if there was anything she could do to help me and I told her, ‘Well, I need a life-sized mountain goat.’ I’d searched everywhere for something affordable to no avail. Next thing you know, Karen delivers to me a life-sized mountain goat that she’d carved from foam! She’s been volunteering as our set designer ever since. The Bravo teens call her ‘Magic Karen’ because we describe something that we need and it appears the next day,” McHugh says.
Hord spends hundreds of volunteer hours each year assisting with Bravo’s productions because she believes in its mission, she says. “I believe that if you’re going to do something, do it for our children. Working with Bravo, I’ve seen firsthand the impact it has on children’s lives,” Hord says. “I’ve watched children with disabilities, such as autism, blossom on Bravo’s stage. The program gives them confidence, and we need confident children.”
Although Hord has a background in creative ventures, she had no previous experience in theater and had never worked in set design.
“Sometimes people will tell me ‘I could never do what you do,’ but I tell them ‘That’s not true. You can do it! You just have to have the desire and then you figure it out!’ ”
That’s the spirit of Dr. Seuss — having the desire to channel your imagination for the betterment of others.
Mustard Seed Preschool, a ministry of Christ Community Church, celebrates Dr. Seuss and Read Across America each year with daily activities like Seuss-tastic Stripes Day, when students wear stripes in honor of the Cat in the Hat; Wacky Wednesday, when kids dress up or fix their hair in a wacky way; and Book Character Costume Day, when the students dress up as their favorite Dr. Seuss book character and bring the accompanying book to read.
“Any time children connect with a story by dressing up as a book character or meeting a Read Across America challenge, it generates excitement about reading,” says Kristin Henke, director of Mustard Seed. “Dr. Seuss’ books brilliantly combine prosody and rhyme with whimsical characters that capture our imaginations. His books were groundbreaking in their day and continue to inspire a new generation of readers.”
So whether it’s stepping into a classroom to read a book to the students, volunteering with children’s theater or financially contributing to the continuation of these great programs, channel the spirit of Dr. Seuss by investing in the lives of children.
Independent writer and storyteller Angela Folds can be contacted atAngela@creativedaycafe.com.
If you go
“Seussical the Musical” will be presented by Bravo Creative Arts Center on March 3, 4 and 5 at 7 p.m. and March 5 and 6 at 2 p.m. at Father Ryan Center for the Arts, 700 Norwood Drive in Nashville. Tickets are $10 in advance or at the door. For more information, call 615-599-5314 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Bravo Creative Arts Center is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization supporting youth in the performing arts.
For more information about Mustard Seed Preschool, 1215 Hillsboro Road in Franklin, visit mustardseedpreschool.com or call 615-468-2345.
For more information about the NEA’s Read Across America, visit www.nea.org/grants/886.htm.