Spark Theater Company gives back to the Wiregrass

The youth theater organization allows tweens and teens to have the opportunity to take center stage, but they are learning so much more than scripts and songs.
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 4:05 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Spark Theater Company is a youth theater group where tweens and teens have the opportunity to take center stage. However, they are learning so much more than scripts and songs. The organization is shining the spotlight on love, passion, and arts.

Jessica Rush is the founder and president of Spark. She said she was inspired by her kids to create the organization as she saw them and their friends gravitate to the arts and their desire for more opportunities.

“I have three sons and they loved theater and they were enjoying theater and they just wanted to do more and their friends were looking for more to do and we thought, ‘Hey, we have a crazy idea, how hard can it be,’” Rush said.

Just nine years later Spark Theater Company has accomplished 40 shows and there are many more on the horizon. Kids 12 years old to seniors in high school can join the nonprofit. Rush said Spark presents four to six shows every year.

“It was literally my kids that made me fall in love with theater because I watched not only my children, but I have watched hundreds of teenagers come through Spark and watching the way their confidence explodes and see them come in unsure and uncertain and watch them walk out of here ready to take on the world,” Rush said.

This is Landon Thornton’s first year being a part of Spark Theater Company.

“Kind of short but it’s been so impactful for one year which is kind of wild to me,” Thornton said.

In the upcoming musical “Freaky Friday” he is playing “Adam.”

“It’ still also unique in a way because you don’t often get to really get to play sort of anything similar to yourself in this kind of world so it’s really fun,” Thornton said.

Whether Thornton is playing a character he can relate to, or not, he said his favorite part about theater is immersing into the fictional reality.

“The way that you can make yourself vulnerable by playing someone who you aren’t, it’s a way to express your emotions that you couldn’t as your own self,” Thornton said.

He said he is thankful to have the opportunity to be apart of it all.

“The environment that the students and the staff create here is just absolutely wonderful and you honestly couldn’t get it anywhere else,” Thornton said.

Preparing for a production is not just learning characters lines and hitting high notes.

“When you walk into a performance venue and you sit and you enjoy you’ll never understand everything that goes into what you just enjoyed and I love that,” Caleb Brooks, the artistic and technical director, said.

It’s built on creativity, numerous rehearsals, and attention to detail. All of the detail Brooks has the eye for.

“It’s my job to make sure every nail goes into the right spot, that every person stands and stops in the right spot, and all of the storytelling that everything is there and that you understand it so that you can just sit and enjoy,” Brooks said.

He said countless hours go into building the production from the ground up and it’s all worth it, every curtain call.

“We will meticulously practice measures of music for hours or blocking and walking and stopping in the right spot for hours, or take this set piece a part because it’s just a little bit off so that we can redo it so that you don’t notice any of the work that goes into all of the stuff on the stage,” Brooks said.

This award-winning organization has a mission that goes beyond the scripts.

“What we give back is a sense of belonging, a place of safety, a place of comradery that you can come in and you belong,” Brooks said. “A lot of these kids don’t go home to a situation that all of us want to go home too or walk through halls of school and don’t feel seen or heard like we want to be but if you walk in here you are loved, and you are appreciated and you belong here and we will find a spot for you to shine and you will feel important and you will feel accomplished.”

Each of the shows presented year after year provide not only theatrical skills, but team building skills that will last a lifetime.

“It’s a group of people that each have a position, that each have a job, that learn working together, that learn lifting other people up after they make a mistake, they learn how to problem solve right then because there is no safety net when you’re on the stage,” Brooks said. “When something goes wrong, you work together to figure it out so nobody else in the audience knows that it went wrong. it’s team building, it’s trust, it’s togetherness, it’s family, accountability, all of those things fell in here.”

Spark is always in need of volunteers and they accept monetary donations.

“We have some amazing adults that help with these kids, in costuming, in props, food, everything,” Rush said.

You can see the upcoming musical “Freaky Friday” June 9th and 10th at the Dothan Opera House.

Click here to view more about Spark Theater Company.

Click here to view the Live at Lunch interview with all of the details regarding their upcoming musical “Freaky Friday.”

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