South City Theatre director visits RMS

Published 3:44 pm Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Riverchase Middle School drama students perform scenes for Sue Ellen Gerrells, artistic director for South City Theatre. (Contributed)

Riverchase Middle School drama students perform scenes for Sue Ellen Gerrells, artistic director for South City Theatre. (Contributed)

By JESSA PEASE / Staff Writer

PELHAM— South City Theatre’s artistic director, Sue Ellen Gerrells, visited the drama students at Riverchase Middle School Nov. 12 to give the students an inside look into theatre.

Hannah Rodgers, the drama teacher at RMS, contacted Gerrells about visiting their classroom, and Gerrells said she was delighted to sit in on the class.

Although this is Rodgers’ first year as the drama teacher, she has already made an impact on the program by transforming a small classroom into the RMS Little Theatre and earning the WIAT CBS 42’s $1,000 One Class at a Time Grant.

“The kids are absolutely excited about it,” Rodgers said after receiving the grant in October. “I feel like even in our small scale RMS theatre, they still feel the act of performing and the act of being in front of people.”

During her visit, Gerrells explained her background and the programs offered through South City Theatre. Then the group of 29 students got to work. They all performed scenes for Gerrells so she could provide feedback.

“I tried to give them some ideas that all the students could use, not just the ones that were involved in those scenes,” Gerrells said. “That’s what we spent most of our time doing.”

She gave the students techniques about turning downstage to ensure they are always visible to audience members, and she said she reiterated many things Rodgers had also covered with the students.

Gerrells said she found that many of the quieter students were some of the most talented, and she enjoyed seeing them blossom.

Since this is the first year the program has been available to the middle school students, many of the students haven’t had an outlet for theatre before.

“It was (fun),” Gerrells said. “There are so many of them, and they are so talented. I was really impressed.”

This was the first time Gerrells said she was asked to visit a drama class, but other teachers have since contacted her. Rodgers also asked Gerrells to come back in the spring for the next round of students.

Gerrells has also been asked to serve as a mentor to the Pelham High School Fine Arts Academy. She said she has been meeting with the curriculum director to aid with the theatre portion of the academy.

“I think it is just sort of serving the Pelham community,” she said. “Anything South City can do to promote the arts in Pelham, or anywhere, we are happy to do.”