MAP: Music, Arts and Practicality
- story by Ellis Anderson, photos by Kelly Corbin
It was an ambitious project to say the least. Take 48 children and four high school councilors and one hit Broadway musical. Rehearse half a day, three times a week for six weeks during the summer. Enlist volunteers and parents make costumes, props and sets.
Opening night, everyone’s feeling butterflies. This is the real deal. The performance is taking place in a state-of-the-art professional theatre – the new facility at Hancock High. The audience will have high expectations because this particular show has a regal reputation to uphold. This is a performance of "The Lion King."
MAP stands for Music, Art and Practicality. The non-profit began in 2009, the brainchild of Waveland resident, Kathy Pinn (now director of the Waveland Ground Zero Museum). In the post-Katrina recovery years, officials were focused on restoring what was deemed necessary for survival. Pinn understood that art and music were necessities of the spirit – especially for children - and formed the group to offer arts programs to area youth.
According to Pinn, the name comes from her belief that music and art are practical life skills that children can learn in the program. For example, sewing, making crafts and getting along with others.
With MAP programs, children, grades 3-12, audition to participate. Every one who auditions is assigned a role. Participants learn the basics of live theatre while putting together real productions. Rehearsals alternated with art classes. The cost to parents?
Nothing. MAP programs are completely free to all comers.
“We think we’ve found a grant writer who will help us acquire funding for additional programs,” says Reese. “There’s so much more we’d like to do. For instance, we have a complete puppet theatre and we’d like to do shows with it.”
In the past, MAP has even taken children on field trips to professional performances in New Orleans, an experience new and astonishing to most of them. And when the board was larger, the group put on multiple shows each year.
“Currently, we have five board members,” Reese says. “We’re putting out a call and want to get back to seven. With additional funding and more help, we can really expand.”
Reese points to the broad community support already in place. Corporate sponsors like the Silver Slipper and Compton Engineering have been mainstays, while the community theatres across the coast have been extremely helpful.
“There’s a great spirit of cooperation between all the groups. The Gulfport Little Theatre has been especially helpful.”
The current performance director is Bonnie Hoeg, Gulfport school teacher and a veteran director at the Gulfport Little Theatre. Reese calls her “extremely talented” and says that she does a remarkable job. Reese also has high praise for the art teacher for the program this year, Ann Steinmetz. Betty Patecek is a founding member, who served as costume coordinator in the most recent productions, working with many creative people in the community to put together a show-stopping wardrobe.
Reese believes the most rewarding part of volunteering with MAP is seeing children who have had no real exposure to art or performance blossom. Like Simba in "The Lion King," they gain confidence with experience. By the end of the program, the children have found a new place in the Circle of Life.