The Silverlake Children’s Theatre Group provides dramatic training and major productions for young people 7-18 years old. Our mission is to harness the power of theatre to develop critical thinking and self-confidence, as well as to engage the imagination. Our plays and programs are designed to develop and nurture young talent while broadening their awareness of culture, politics, aesthetics and the human condition. We believe that children respond to smart material and forthright, genuine direction. Every actor who auditions is cast in our plays and strong roles are earned by a combination of talent and tenure with the company. We offer writing and directing mentorships to students who have demonstrated exceptional passion and commitment.
Described as “smart theatre for children” by the Los Angeles Times, the SCTG continues to present productions which push the boundaries of traditional children’s theatre in terms of complex ideas, themes and staging. Nearly all plays are original productions co-written by the students through our Writing Mentorship Program.
Thanks to a volunteer base of adult artists from film, theatre, and music disciplines, the SCTG offers high quality professional productions and full houses in legitimate theaters around the Los Angeles area. SCTG students learn something about acting, singing, movement, and dancing while being mentored as writers and directors. But they learn a lot more about responsibility, self-discipline, camaraderie, and commitment. Most important of all, the SCTG builds community.
Each year the SCTG presents spring and fall productions generated from original material created within the company. The shows widely vary in their genres and staging, ranging from dramas and comedies to musicals and cabaret. Themes are equally divergent and typically explores how a teenager relates to the world – and how the world relates to them. “The quintessential play,” says Artistic Director Broderick Miller, “is a search for wisdom with bittersweet results.”
The SCTG has presented over 50 productions, including a darkly-exuberant musical called Jail Birds (2010) set in a girls juvenile detention facility (sort of Glee meets Orange Is The New Black); our own version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which we titled “Spamelot” (2003) to fly under the legal radar (three years later, they announced the Broadway version titled Spamalot they stole our title!); The Window (2005) a searing and suspenseful meditation on death that was invited to play at the Los Angeles Theatre Fringe Festival; and Deadwood (2014), an epic musical-drama western that explored the notions of life, death and legacy.
When the SCTG does an occasional previously produced play, it’s never conventional. Years before Spamalot debuted on Broadway, we did our own version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which we titled Spamelot (2003) to fly under the legal radar. Two years later, they announced the Broadway version titled Spamalot (we thought of it first – it’s true!). In 2003 we performed Liz Tucillo’s comedy-musical Cheyenne in which the boys played the traditional girls roles of bar floozies and cute-but-weak love interests, while the girls played the sheriffs, outlaws and characters of action. We also raised a lot of eyebrows with our production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf!? (2010) in which our young actors played George and Martha like human razor blades.
In addition to exploring challenging themes, the SCTG pursues new and unique methods of staging. In their recent comedy Red Scare (2014) – a Cold War farce that riffs on Orson Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds’ radio prank – the 11actors in the cast were required to learn every role in the play. The audience randomly chose the roles for the actors right before curtain, which meant the actors had to literally be ready for anything. Not only was this a great exercise in trust and commitment, but the actors also learned to respect the material and process in a larger, more complete context while bonding in an extraordinary way.
We have also performed a “living theatre” play Havana (2006 – Havana revival 2013), where the audience followed actors from room-to-room throughout the course of the show. The actors were performing simultaneous scenes in several different rooms at once (we had as many as eleven scenes occurring at the same time). An audience member could accompany the character of their choice and experience the story from that character’s point-of-view. And since there were 26 characters in the play, you could see a different play on 26 separate nights depending on which actor/character you chose to follow.
Similar experimental shows include Love and Hate (2006) in which the play was first presented as a drama; then at intermission the audience took seats on stage while the cast performed the same play as a comedy from the seats and aisles; and Teatro Della Morte (2008), a cabaret-like show performed in a circus ten inspired by the professional Seattle-based troupe Teatro Zinzanni – whose performers actually conducted workshops (magic, juggling, clown fundamentals) with SCTG students.