PlayTime Productions announces its final bow after 43 years – Madison.com

Jul 05, 2022 by beatzzshopp - 0 Comments

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PlayTime Productions, one of Wisconsin’s only all-children theatre companies, is closing its doors after 43 years of student-centered performances.
Twice a year, PlayTime and its cast of around 25 child actors hosted 16 shows in public spaces around the Dane County Area. PlayTime shared productions with about 4,000 children and families at an accessible cost.
In a letter sent to alumni, families and friends last week, Artistic/Managing Director Reyane Leach said the pandemic wreaked havoc with the organization’s structure, and the operation had “taken its final bow.”
The fall 2019 production of “Ali Baba and a Few Thieves,” above, would be the last performance by Playtime Productions. The children’s theater program said last week it had closed.
“Truthfully, the organization was at a turning point with a growing need for revitalization of staff and adequate, sustainable funding,” she said. “Unfortunately, the opportunity for transition and training has passed.”
Many of PlayTime’s music and production crew, in addition to those in its production and management positions, have retired, Leach added. While the organization had begun a process to fill those positions, transition efforts were halted in March 2020.
Two years later, Leach decided to cease all production — at least for now.
“I’m so grateful to have had a 23-year career working with children and families in the arts,” she said. “I just adored working with children and giving them a worthwhile activity that we could share with other families and children in the audience.”
In one of its last performances, the Playtime Productions cast performed an updated, musical version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes” in Warner Park.
Leach first got involved with PlayTime as a spectator, taking her four children to see a 1992 play in the old Mount Horeb Public Library.
“I was a mom with four kids looking for something to do,” she said. “It was affordable because it was just $2, but once a year is really all we could afford back in the day. I know from personal experience what it meant to me.”
The organization’s founder, Henrietta “Teddy” Studt, made PlayTime a traveling organization to benefit people like Leach. Especially in areas just outside of Madison around that time, exposure to the arts could be hard to come by, Leach said.
“It would be a pretty big deal and pretty expensive to take your family downtown,” she said. “And there wasn’t a lot of theater available except for in the high schools. So virtually no opportunity for kids younger than that.”
Children in Playtime Productions performed “The Reluctant Dragon” in 2018.
Leach’s own son got involved with PlayTime in the spring of 1997. That’s when she said she was able to see its value for performers as well.
Actors in third to eighth grade involved with PlayTime learned how to act out an hourlong play with eight to 10 music numbers, hand-written by Studt. Through practicing, students learned skills like reading and memorization. Through traveling, they practiced teamwork and responsibility.
Kurt Studt, Teddy’s son, said his mother’s touch in every performance was striking, even after she left the company.
Studt wrote a character named Henrietta, her full first name, and included the phrase “yes, dear,” a distinct phrase of her husband’s, in each performance. Teddy Studt died in 2010.
“My mother had a fun, offbeat sense of humor,” Kurt Studt said. “We were there when she was writing the scripts and writing the songs … and later we got to see our children in her plays. It was just such a gift.”
The family connections didn’t stop there. PlayTime even provided the inspiration for Kurt Studt’s son’s name, Kai.
“Kai was in the Snow Queen,” Kurt Studt said. “It just so happens that when Kai was born and we were thinking about a name, one of the main reasons we settled on the name Kai is because that’s the lead character in the Snow Queen. And he got to play that character.”
Kai Studt, who just graduated from high school, keeps signed posters from every year he participated in Playtime Productions in his bedroom. The troupe gave him a sense of humor and confidence, he said, adding he’s not afraid to make a fool out of himself for a good laugh.
“I don’t remember anything from late elementary school through middle school. I just remember PlayTime,” Kai Studt said. “If you ask me what I learned in classes one year, I couldn’t tell you. But I could tell you what show we did at PlayTime.”
Teddy Studt founded PlayTime after a group of children came to her in 1979, wanting to perform a play. The group knew Studt had been an actress, and knocked on her door asking for guidance.
After the first play, Studt helped found “Park Players,” an outdoor children’s summertime production. Soon after, she decided to add a fall and winter play and started Playtime Productions.
Seventh-grader Preston Doll participated in the program for two years, until the pandemic put a stop to the program.
“I learned how to communicate with people, how to public speak, and just social skills,” Preston said. “It has been a very big part of my life in the past few years. Getting to work with so many people who had never acted, had acted once or who had acted many times was just so exciting. You carry on the life skills you learn there.”
Acting also helps students develop empathy and communication skills on a deeper level, Leach said.
“Body language, looking at people and understanding them and learning what it’s like to be in somebody else’s shoes,” she said. “When you are playing the character of somebody else, you have to think outside yourself.”
The cast of Playtime Production’s “The Little Match Girl” singing their ensemble number. 
Leach said PlayTime will be remembered not only by the children who participated in it but the greater Madison community.
“People will miss out on that home town, neighborhood arts experience” she said. “There’s nothing else like it.”
1. Kids in the Rotunda 
The regular Kids in the Rotunda season kicks off in October and offers families a free, live performance at Overture Center most Saturdays through April. Expect everything from children’s musicians and jugglers to science experiments and ballet. Performances are geared to everyone from infants to grandparents. Dancing, clapping, giggling, tears and the occasional temper tantrum are to be expected.
More information: www.overture.org/programs/kids-in-the-rotunda
2. Celebrate fall 
The Madison Children’s Museum is celebrating fall with a harvest festival 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 28. Create art and meet new animal friends at the festival. Children will also have a chance to create a community garden mandala with Sarvodaya USA and hear a Suzuki Strings performance. Festival events are included with admission to the museum, 100 N. Hamilton St. Admission for adults and children is $9 with those under age 1 free. Entry for grandparents and seniors is $8. Reduced admission available to those who meet qualifications.
More information:
madisonchildrensmuseum.org/programs-and-events/special-events
3. CTM’s “Matilda”
Children’s Theater of Madison brings Roald Dahl’s classic novel to life with a musical version of “Matilda.” With help from some friends, Matilda proves that you can rewrite your own story. Performances take place Oct. 11-25 at Overture Center’s Playhouse. Ticket prices range from $20 to $42.
More information: ctmtheater.org/see-a-show/matilda-the-musical
4. Look up
The Madison Astronomical Society provides the telescopes. You provide the curiosity at Moon Over Monona Terrace — a free event that includes educational presentations about the moon and other celestial objects. The event takes place 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Monona Terrace rooftop gardens. Free tickets are required.
More information: www.mononaterrace.com/event-group/moonmononaterrace
5. Meet creepy crawlies
Meet the critters that creep through the night at the Aldo Leopold Center’s annual fall fest. Families can discover what’s hiding in the boneyard, hear spooky stories, enjoy refreshments and more at the free celebration 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Aldo Leopold Center, 330 Femrite Drive, Monona.
More information: aldoleopoldnaturecenter.org
6. Hit the trails
The UW Arboretum hosts a number of family walks throughout the season with walks geared toward all ages. The mostly free walks tackle topics such as changing seasons, native animals, fungi, the harvest moon and more. A complete schedule is available on the arboretum’s website.
More information: arboretum.wisc.edu/visit/events
The fall 2019 production of “Ali Baba and a Few Thieves,” above, would be the last performance by Playtime Productions. The children’s theater program said last week it had closed.
“Truthfully, the organization was at a turning point with a growing need for revitalization of staff and adequate, sustainable funding. Unfortunately, the opportunity for transition and training has passed.”
Reyane Leach, PlayTime Productions artistic/managing director 
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It was well past noon, and Annie Weatherby-Flowers hadn’t stopped moving since 6:15 a.m.
The fall 2019 production of “Ali Baba and a Few Thieves,” above, would be the last performance by Playtime Productions. The children’s theater program said last week it had closed.
In one of its last performances, the Playtime Productions cast performed an updated, musical version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes” in Warner Park.
The cast of Playtime Production’s “The Little Match Girl” singing their ensemble number. 
Children in Playtime Productions performed “The Reluctant Dragon” in 2018.
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