Young Actors at Play

By on 7 July, 2014 in Art, Fun, Greg Thornton with 0 Comments

“In the United States, our greatest single source of wealth is the minds and talent of our young people. Not to use it is stupid – to waste it is a crime.” –Isaac Stern

Young Actors at The Playhouse

Young actors at the Playhouse

Our Playhouse School has been in existence for almost three years, yes, that makes us toddlers, I suppose. But we are definitely beyond the crawling and into the walking stage, talking and singing, and letting our creative wings fly. On any given weekday afternoon, the sounds of young, spirited, and talented learning-to-be actors ring through the hallways and fills the place with echoes of hope and creativity. Two teachers who have been with us from the Playhouse School opening days are Katie Svela-Crews and Jason Morgan. Katie has the K-2 class while Jason takes the sixth grade through high school classes. Both have taught our actors in third through fifth grades. They are both immensely talented and have large hearts. One  can tell just by walking into the classes that their young charges love them. Katie and Jason graciously spent some time discussing why they do what they do.

Greg Thornton: You have both studied theater, have degrees, do you feel the programs you studied helped you carry over the things you learned and influenced your work in the Playhouse School?

Katie Svela-Crews: Absolutely. I feel that my double major in music and theater makes me realize that there is such an importance for both to be learned by the little ones. I love throwing in elements of music and theater in order for the children to start gaining an appreciation for both.

Jason Morgan: Yes, absolutely! I was able to train under some great teachers that also shared the love of educating students in the arts. With arts being cut in the school system, I was thrilled to join the team of The Playhouse School.

Greg Thornton: The teaching of acting has unique enough challenges when the student is college age or older. Surely there are more and different challenges when the students, like yours, are young?

Katie Svela-Crews: Yes and no. While children do face the challenge of grasping on to certain techniques and concepts, they are at such a wonderful age where they will not “get in the way” of themselves. They are so much more open and their minds are like sponges at this age. This is why it is so important to start letting children experience these types of things at a young age whether they choose to pursue it later in life or not.

Jason Morgan: I have found that my kids thrive on expressing themselves. The challenge is helping them dig deeper into discovering motivations beyond their actions. I have been really impressed with their instincts.

Greg Thornton: There is a huge range when you talk about kindergarten through the fourth year of high school. Part of the Playhouse School idea is to build upon each class as they advance. Do you see that bearing any fruit as of yet, in the Playhouse School’s young life?

Katie Svela-Crews: Yes! I was so excited to see some of my children move up into the other classes. There is nothing more gratifying to see that they hunger for more time to learn the craft. I love being on the first part of the building blocks. It’s so fun to see how much they grow.

Jason Morgan: When I joined the team, I started sitting in on Katie’s classes so that I could see where they were starting. Katie does a fantastic job of teaching the kids basics of theater in some creative and fun ways. Because of Katie, when I get the kids I have a strong foundation. When new students come in, they are so eager that they jump right in and catch on quickly. I think what keeps students coming back is that each class section is divided into different elements of acting and technology. We may be only three years old, but this spring our enrollment tripled.

Greg Thornton: Acting can be described in many ways, as a craft, as a discipline, as make-believe, as “playing.” I think it is also a gift, a talent, and in many ways, can’t truly be taught. Would you agree? Disagree?

Katie Svela-Crews: I truly believe that it comes down to passion and hard work. You can have all the talent in the word but no discipline or passion. I think if someone is willing to work hard enough they could excel. Everyone has their strong points in the theater world. Some people are better singers than they are dancers and some people are better actors than they are singers. You must be willing to work outside yourself and pursue everything that comes with this world.

Jason Morgan: I completely agree with that statement. The goal for me is to teach these students about being self-aware. I think that this helps students as people as well as actors. I tell my students every day, seriously, every day, that if it is real for them then it will be real for us. I want these students to also have confidence after my class. I want them to know that everyone has a voice. When it comes to your emotions, there is no right or wrong, it’s what you feel. 

Greg Thornton: Talk a little bit, if you would, about the workshops coming up in July and early August. These are shorter sessions but perhaps a bit more intensive?

Katie Svela-Crews: My workshop is for sure an intensive class. A mini musical theater “boot camp” if you will. My kids will learn everything from improv, games, meet special guest artists, watch famous musical theater numbers, learn and perform a musical theater number and learn about the history of this great craft. I promise that these kids will come home singing and laughing!

Jason Morgan: They are definitely more intense because we have that uninterrupted time to really get into the meat of each section. The 3-5 graders are telling an energetic and fun story through a musical piece. My 6-8 graders are performing a version of a childhood fairytale and making it their own. My older kids get a huge collaboration of music, movement, acting, and special skills.

Greg Thornton: When we first started to discuss how a Playhouse School would develop, and that from the classes, our Playhouse Troupe would be formed. Some of the young actors from the classes would become members of the Troupe. Do you feel that is happening and is it a worthwhile goal?

Katie Svela-Crews: Most definitely. It would be great to see some of these children come full circle. The Playhouse if playing it smart by letting these kids grow up in an environment where they can build on each class which in turn will enable them to one day be a part of this elite Playhouse Troupe.

Jason Morgan: I definitely think so. Most of my students want to perform and look forward to the Troupe show every year. Many of them want more than one. This is something I am working on diligently. If these kids want to be involved, than I want to give them that opportunity.

Greg Thornton: We are very lucky to have you in our Playhouse family and on our faculty. Talk about your background: Where are you from? Where you went to school, when did you decide that theater and the arts would become such a part of your life?

Katie Svela-Crews: Thank you Greg, I am blessed to have started with the Playhouse classes from the ground up, what a journey it has been!

I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia. When I was in elementary school I was really big into art classes. I loved painting, drawing and competing in art shows. I was then asked to be a part of a new choir that was developing in Atlanta called the Metropolitan Atlanta Young Singers. My choir director, Dr. Susan Cotton, was one of my biggest influences. My father, a musician himself, really helped encourage and develop my talent by signing me up for auditions, piano lessons and voice lessons. I guess you can say I got bit by the bug early on. While in high school I studied classical voice as well as being in the musical theater class at my school. Since I could not decide whether I wanted to be a professional opera singer or a professional musical theater performer, I thought, “Well, I will just major in both.” I attended Huntingdon College with a double major in Music: Concentration Vocal Performance and Musical Theater. Right before I graduated Huntingdon, I landed my first professional job with the West Virginia Public Theater and I never looked back!

Jason Morgan: I am a Montgomery native and I studied Musical Theater at BTW. I went to college at AUM and Faulkner. I knew from the age of 12 that theater was what I wanted to do. I tried other endeavors, but I always kept coming back to theater. Now, I get to make living working for the National Theater for Children and teaching classes at The Playhouse. These kids are so important to me and I look forward to seeing them and receiving their emails and text messages. I can’t imagine doing anything else!



  • 3rd-5th July 8, 9, 10
  • 6th-8th July 14-18
  • 9th-12th July 21-25
  • K-2 July 29, 30, 31
  • Classic Plays for Teens Monday mornings in July, 10:30 to 12:00.
  • Puppetry Workshop : August 5, 6,& 7


  • FEATURED ARTISTS: Hannah Aldridge, Christina Christian, Britt Johnson


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