Theatre Arts Group Celebrates Diversity and Growth through Performance
By Kelsey Pohlman
Outreach and Engagement Communications Intern
When Annelise Dahl, a finance major with minors in French and nonprofit studies, began her first year at Ohio State, she had no idea what she was in for - then she met Sarah Fitzpatrick. And that's when she began her journey to becoming the second director of the Theatre Arts Group (TAG).
TAG, which was started in 2014 by Fitzpatrick, a recent graduate in neuroscience, consists of a group of diverse Ohio State students who meet with students at Columbus North International School two to three times a week to build an interest and love for theatre through writing, acting, learning, performing, seeing live shows and building sets.
"Sarah started it on her own," Dahl gushed of the TAG originator. "Sarah visited Columbus North and loved the theater there. She talked to the principal and he was in!"
The rest is history.
In the two years that TAG has been active, they have taken their students to see five live shows, including "A Christmas Carol," "Motown the Musical," "Legally Blonde," "Hairspray" and Ohio State's own Eighth Floor Improv Group.
Not only have they seen the professionals at work, but they have also done the work themselves. The TAG students at Columbus North have written and performed two spring shows in the past two years: a comedic play, "Who Done It?" and a dramatic play centered around social injustices, "We Are Here."
"Columbus North is filled with a diverse group of students who learn from different life experiences," Dahl explained. "'We Are Here' centered around the student's own experiences and how it has affected them, which made for a great show."
Even the principal of Columbus North International School, Kenton E. Lee, was impressed.
"The growth that was demonstrated from the first and second shows, really left me speechless and proud at the same time," Lee said. "As the principal, I was beaming after the Thursday evening performance of the second year show and I can't wait to see what year three has in store!"
Let's Go to Work
Providing kids with an outlet to the creative arts through performing, writing, viewing and building theatre is not the only thing that the Theatre Arts Group has accomplished.
This past year, they received the 2016 Student Group Award for Excellence in Community Service Programming and were given grant funding to continue to take the students to the live theatre performances across Columbus.
The grant funding even helped TAG reach one of their final goals - becoming an official Ohio State student organization. They also had a booth at this year's Involvement Fair, which could help them gather more Ohio State members.
But the Theatre Arts Group is doing more than just gathering new Ohio State members - they are changing the lives of the Columbus North students as well.
"The Theatre Arts Group has had a tremendous impact on our students. Through the field trips to local theater productions, to set building, to script writing, and of course the acting, our students have been exposed to things that they otherwise would not be able to do during the course of a normal school day," Lee praised. "This type of experiential learning has changed the lives of many of our students, encouraging many of them to reconsider their college major or include theatre into their post-high school plans."
What Happens Next?
While there has been a large amount of progress for the Theatre Arts Group and for the students at Columbus North, the engagement does not stop there.
"In the future, we would love to work with an elementary school and bring TAG to those younger students," Dahl said. "And within two years, we are hoping to open one more TAG branch at a different university or a different elementary or high school."
And even though these developments have been very important to Dahl, she believes that the connections made at TAG are the most important.
"The relationships I have with the other students is hands-down my favorite part of the program," Dahl said. "Some kids start off a little closed-off, and you get to see the moment when they shift over. Things change for everyone so quickly in high school and to be friends with all of these young adults and seeing them blossom is a great experience."
The Theatre Arts Group will continue to sing, write, view and perform this year - and hopefully it will be another year of growth for the group and the students.
Contact: Annelise Dahl, email@example.com
Program website: http://tag.org.ohio-state.edu