Children gathered at the Catoosa County Library on June 14 for a very special treat – a visit from a professional musical theater troupe based in Senoia, Ga. – A Company of Friends Educational Productions (ACOF).
Cinderella, Snow White, Ice Queen and a Fairy Godmother serenaded the youngsters with songs and humor, but the production had a higher purpose, too.
“All our plays are attempts to teach children important lessons through the arts,” says the troupe’s founder and director, Tammy Barton.
Barton says that one of the inspirations for the founding of the group in 1999 was discussions with teachers who understood that children often learn better when lessons are interweaved with things like music and acting.
Catoosa Library’s Children’s Coordinator Shannon Neal invited the group, which is a member of The Georgia Council For the Arts Touring and Teaching Roster, as part of the library’s summer reading program. “They were wonderful,” says Neal. “They even helped by accommodating our budget.”
The performance at the Catoosa Library was titled “A Fairland Fable,” co-written by Barton and her mother, Gayann Truelove, who is also a part of the group, and tells a story that takes children through a journey of jealousy, loneliness and bad attitudes that ends in honesty, acceptance, understanding, love and trust.
To learn more about the Catoosa Library’s programs for children and young people, visit catoosacountylibrary.org or call 706-965-3600. The library is located at 108 Catoosa Circle, Ringgold. Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The actors make their audience part of the show, says Barton. “We coach the children before we start so they can add sound effects. We go into the audience at least once during the show. We might ask a child to hold a bouquet of flowers that one of the actors must retrieve, for instance. We make the show interactive because children want to be involved and they absorb the lessons better when they are.”
“After the show children wanted to check out princess books,” says Neal. “We ran out of them. That brought a huge smile to my face, as we have quite a few of those. It was a proud moment for this librarian. Encouraging the kids to read is always huge to me and ACOF was able to connect the kids to fairytales and music.”
Barton says she and the troupe were impressed with both the people and the scenery of northwest Georgia. “Shannon is the nicest lady. She was so good to us. The children were very polite – quiet when they should have been and interactive when that was appropriate. The area is so beautiful we decided to stay an extra day and visited Ruby Falls.
A Company of Friends performs at schools, libraries and children’s events. Barton says they work to keep their prices affordable, but there are ways people who wish to host them can save more. “We give price breaks when multiple schools in an area book us on consecutive days. Schools can sometimes get grants to help, too.”
ACOF offers a number of programs, including one called “The Big Bad Bullysaurus” that addresses the issue of bullying.