SC Arts Commission 40th Anniversary
Tell Your Story!
Individuals have submitted stories based on their experiences. The Arts Commission has not verified all facts.
Dee Dee Sandt
Executive Director, Beaufort Performing Arts
Beaufort Performing Arts, Inc — The Beginning
I will relate a story having to deal with the life-changing events of a child and a community who participated in theatre, and this time it is from the musical theatre camp that I created, produce, direct and choreograph each summer.
When I interviewed for the position of executive director of Beaufort Performing Arts, and when I arrived in Beaufort, S.C. on March 2, 2004, I was told and shown a financial balance sheet by the newly formed board of directors that there was $145,000 waiting in the bank for the daunting task of the start up for Beaufort Performing Arts, Inc. On March 8, 2004, I went to the accountant to find that there was only $2,500 in the bank, and the rest remained in hopeful grants from the Hospitality Association of Beaufort and the A-Tax Fund from the City of Beaufort. You can only imagine! I did finally convince both organizations and a community of individual would-be-donors that this would be a worthy cause, and that not only would I fuel economic growth and tourism for the community with the arts, but especially for future generations. But before doing that the idea of Beaufort Performing Arts Musical Theatre Summer Camp was born out of financial necessity in the spring of 2004.
I convinced a good friend who is a musical director to come to Beaufort and another friend to assist me in a production of ANNIE for three weeks starting in June, 2004. To my amazement, we had 42 children sign up, each with a payment of $300 per child. The premise was that the children would audition on day one, we would cast that evening, and then rehearse for two and half weeks from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., five days a week, from Monday-Friday, with one performance of a fully produced production of ANNIE. On the first day there were several exceptionally talented children from the community auditioning and one in particular for the role of ANNIE.
About halfway through the audition process the talented would-be Annie asked in tears to speak with me in private. She broke down crying saying, "I know you are thinking of me as Annie, but I'm not very smart, I don't do well in school and I will let you down." I comforted the 11-year-old as best as I could and told her I thought she was more than capable of doing the role, but would not go against her wishes. When the auditions were over her mother approached me and said the child was very upset. Apparently would-be Annie had come out of the closed audition crying to her mother, and her mother, misunderstanding, tried to reassure her daughter that she could pull curtains or do make-up, when would-be Annie cried out, "It's worse – they want me to play the lead!" So Mrs. Laffitte, a soon-to-be board member, approached me and said, "You know she doesn't do well in school." I told Mrs. Lafitte that often artistic children do not excel in school and if JaneAnne, (Annie) wanted the part it was hers. I would determine whether she was smart or not. She took the role and 14 days of rehearsal later with every line memorized, acted, blocked, songs sung well, and every dance step perfected, we played to a sold-out house and a five-minute standing ovation – and that was after the first number, "A Hard Knock Life" – a first in my theatrical career! The audience that night at the end of the performance would not let the children leave the stage. The arts had come to Beaufort and they were here to stay all because of a musical theatre summer camp for children.
BPA has added a new summer drama camp for children ages 13-18, and our fourth musical theatre summer camp has grown in strength, production values, dollars, support and performances, as has the organization, whose yearly budget is now well over $500,000. ANNIE kicked off the beginning of a very successful venture, and the theatre is thriving with classes for both children and adults, nationally recognized performances, performers and other theatrical projects.
* A special note: JaneAnne Laffitte is now 14 years old and an "A" student!
Submit your story by e-mailing Milly Hough.