April 29, 2024

Backstage at the Egyptian: Karla Guelke talks CCT’s Mary Poppins Jr.

The Egyptian Theatre recently lit up with the enchanting performance of Mary Poppins Jr. by CCT of DeKalb County. In an insightful interview, our marketing intern, Pamela, delves into the magic of the show with Karla Guelke from CCT, exploring not only the production itself but also the profound impact the arts have on the youth in our community.

PAMELA: Could you tell us a little about Children’s Community Theatre (CCT) and
how children can become involved?
KARLA: Children’s Community Theatre (CCT) was founded on September 17, 1955. For more
than 50 years, the organization has presented musicals for and featuring the children in
our community. In addition, CCT sponsors theatre arts training camps that give children
hands-on experience putting on a musical production. Many of our productions allow us
to cast every child that auditions for the show, and every child who attends camp will be
able to participate in a performance.

CCT’s mission is to develop and foster an interest in dramatic arts among people of all
ages, but especially among children and young adults.

P: How can community members support and become involved with CCT?
K: If there is an interest, there is a role for you! We, of course, accept financial support. As
a 501(3)(c), we are a non-for-profit organization, so in addition to helping us pay for our
programs, it is a tax-deductible donation.

If people are looking for a more hands-on opportunity, we are a volunteer organization
always looking for more parent volunteers. Our sets are built by our parent volunteers,
so we are always looking for people who know how to swing a hammer or use a
paintbrush … or who happen to have an empty shed or barn in which we can build. We
frequently have 80+ children in a production, so we can always use parent volunteers to
help manage the delightful chaos at rehearsals and during performances is also always
welcome.

If you want to play a role in this organization, I am 100% positive that we can find a
place for you. Just email cctdekalb@gmail.com and let us know!

P: What do you hope the children from CCT get out of this program?
K: First and foremost, I want every child involved at CCT to feel like they are part of our
theatre community – a sense of belonging is very important to everyone, and providing a
community for these kids is a fundamental aspect of why CCT exists.
In addition to the community aspect, I love how participation in live theatre boosts kids’
self-confidence, teaches self-discipline, increases their self-respect, helps them develop
and implement creative thinking and problem solving skills, and increases their empathy by
exposing them to different cultures and ideas – both via the script and/or castmates.
These are not just concepts we hope for, but rather blossoming skills I have witnessed
come to life right in front of me. It is incredibly rewarding for the children, but also for the
adults who get to witness the growth firsthand.

P: Can you share any behind-the-scenes challenges you faced during the
production process?
K: Our biggest challenge is finding a space to rehearse and a space to build our set. We
have no home building so we rely on the amazing volunteers in our community to lend
us the space.

Our other challenge is money. We only charge $15 for a family membership and a $30
production fee. We want to make sure that CCT is accessible to all the children and not
have finances be what limits their opportunity to participate.

P: What is your favorite part about working with the children of CCT?
K: Watching how much the kids grow in mind, body, and spirit over the course of every
production.

P: What does it mean to you to direct Mary Poppins Jr. at the historic Egyptian
Theatre?
K: Most obviously, it is a beautiful building with a history that reaches back almost a
century, starting with movies and vaudeville. Over the years, great people and talents
like JFK, BB King, Ray Charles, REM have taken this stage, the one on which we stand.
To share the stage with every other person to have crossed it is both humbling and
inspiring.

To see the kids faces without that context is pretty great too. They have been
rehearsing – pretending to be on stage, for weeks. When that pretending suddenly
becomes reality on the first day of rehearsal at the theatre, it is an absolute delight to
see them react. The reality and magic of the show hits them, their excitement fills the
space, and entire energy of the production changes.

P: What do you hope the audience takes away from this production?
K: One of the lines from my favorite songs in the show, “Anything Can Happen,”
encourages people to “open different doors. You may find a you that you never knew
was yours.” I hope the audience is inspired to do everything that that implies: be
curious, take time to see things instead of just glancing, get a little messy, dance
around, and don’t forget to laugh. It helps in almost every situation, even when you find
yourself with a bit of soot on your face.