Once a month, C Magazine sits down with a prominent Columbus figure to understand their vibe at 5:01. This month, we dialogued with Steven Anderson, Artistic Director for the Phoenix Theatre for Children. Naturally, we asked him to save us the drama.
In your 16 years of service, what’s the strangest children’s performance you’ve performed or seen? I once wrote and produced a version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears that was envisioned as a Busby Berkeley musical. It had gangsters, a Shirley Temple character playing Goldilocks, dancing taxi cabs and chorus girls with skyscraper headdresses. It was weird. It was so colorful the children may have suffered retina damage.
Ever though about performing 300? Yes, but because I produce children’s theatre, it would be a one-man show done all in mime.
How does The Phoenix Theatre empower children? The Phoenix, at its best, explores the essential questions of what it is to be human. Frequent themes of our plays and our work in the classroom involve questions like, “Who am I? Why am I here? What are my responsibilities as a citizen of the world?” It is the easiest thing in the world to make a child laugh—fall down, make funny faces, speak in an exaggerated way. To help a child or adult to recognize their own dilemmas and conundrums on the stage is something I have tried to do with varied success.
Should every city pay an art tax? If so, where would you spend the money first? There certainly needs to be some mechanism to help the arts be more sustainable. We have a deep and textured arts and culture community. I would focus funding on (big surprise) children so that each child, regardless of socio-economic background, has the opportunity to explore visual arts, music, dance and theatre.
What are the key ingredients of any successful show? Any theatrical production—for children or adults—should have the ability to help its audience see the world through someone else’s eyes. At the core, key ingredients are: honesty, passion, humor and truth.
What is the hobgoblin of children’s minds? Technology. It has boundless untapped possibilities to enhance our imagination, but it’s mostly dumbing kids down, instead of making them smarter.
What ever happened to the Letter People?
I think they were probably replaced by email or maybe Twitter.
At this point in history, can we learn more from children or adults? Generally adults know things and children wonder things. You can have a much more interesting and engaging conversation with someone who ponders the wonders of the universe than you can with somebody who knows how many miles the earth is from the sun.
Are you superstitious? Not in the least—but I do refer to Shakespeare’s M. as the Scottish play.