In September of 2007, California Theatre Center partnered with the Apple Tree Library Foundation on a groundbreaking cultural exchange with China. For three weeks, a team of actors and teachers represented CTC in Shanghai and Fuzhou with a production of Miss Nelson Is Missing!, a lively musical adaptation by Joan Cushing of the well-known children’s book by Harry Allard and James Marshall. The CTC team also taught customized theatre workshops to students at Minli High School in Shanghai, and Fuzhou First Middle School in Fuzhou.
The goal of the project was to foster English language literacy among the children of China according to the mission of the Apple Tree Library Foundation, which has established many English language libraries throughout China. In addition to creating these libraries, which provide much-needed reading materials to Chinese schoolchildren who are beginning to learn English at increasingly younger ages, Apple Tree invites exemplary English-speaking arts organizations, such as theatre companies, choruses, and puppet shows to China to share their work with these young people. Seeing live performances in English allows the children to apply what they have learned, while gaining an awareness and appreciation for the arts. With its three decade history of high-quality theatre for youth, outstanding educational programs led by dedicated performer/teachers, and numerous collaborations with theatre artists from all over the world, California Theatre Center was a perfect fit to join Apple Tree in its mission.
California Theatre Center’s team consisted of the cast of six actors performing Miss Nelson Is Missing!, two stage managers, and two representatives to the press. All members of the team taught theatre workshops as well, which CTC designed especially for the Chinese students. Topics included acting, voice, stage movement, improvisation, and juggling. The play Miss Nelson Is Missing!, adapted by Joan Cushing, was performed at theatres in schools and in local community centers. After each performance, the audience was treated to a talkback session with the cast, which provided the young people with a rare opportunity to communicate with professional theatre artists from another culture.
CTC’s tour of China was an endeavor that spent years in the making, and turned out to be tremendous success for the cast and teaching team, for the audiences who saw Miss Nelson Is Missing!, but most of all, for the children who were able to witness the production and work with CTC’s professional artists in their schools. Opportunities such as this are not as readily available to Chinese students as they are to those of this country, although Chinese children benefit from exposure to the arts just as much as American children do. The Apple Tree Library Foundation and California Theatre Center will continue to work together to make enriching artistic opportunities available to the youth of China, as collaborations are being planned for the next four years
Our partnership with China and the Apple Tree Library Foundation is a wonderful addition to California Theatre Center’s many artistic and educational programs, but it is an enormous undertaking, both administratively and financially. We aim to keep this collaboration alive, but we are also seeking the involvement of our loyal patrons and community to help make it so. To that end, CTC welcomes donations that can go specifically towards offsetting the expenditures required to make this year’s tour and future tours possible. We are also looking for individuals or organizations that are interested in sponsoring an entire tour. All contributions are tax-deductible. To find out more about how you can be involved with the California Theatre Center/Apple Tree Library Foundation partnership, please contact CTC’s Administrative Director, Susan Earle, at 408-245-2979, or firstname.lastname@example.org.