Sybil St. Claire, Ph.D.
Theatre Artist and Arts Educator
Sybil St. Claire, Ph.D., began her career in theatre as the Founder
of All Children's Theatre in Gainesville, Florida at the age of 24.
She stayed on as Artistic Director of All Children's Theatre for 17
years growing the theatre from a handful of actors rehearsing outside
on a basketball court to a professional children's theatre dedicated
to developing life skills in young people through the performing arts.
Over the years her students have gone on to appear in movies such as
"Doc Hollywood," "Parenthood," and "Gladiator."
As a career theatre artist and arts educator there is a philosophy
that underlies her work that is rooted in fostering a flexible and adventurous
approach to the life-long journey of learning. "There are many
ways to learn and thus many ways to teach; my beliefs about art and
arts education are centered on this axiom. I approach my work with what
could be called "beginner's mind," for in the mind of an expert
there are very few options but in the mind of a beginner - all things
are possible. Beginner's mind allows me to remain in a creative space
where I dare to make mistakes in order to grow both myself and others."
During her years as an Artistic Director, Sybil went on to become
an award winning director and gained entrance into the Society for Stage
Directors and Choreographers, a union organization for professional
directors. She also wrote a dozen plays and musicals and became an internationally
produced and published playwright of theatre for young audiences. Her
plays, "Woolfie," and "Incantation," have enjoyed
particular success with production histories in the hundreds of venues
residing nationally and internationally. Her most recent work, a musical
composed by Amado Bobadilla, called "The Invisible People,"
recently enjoyed a staged reading at Seaside Music Theatre in Daytona
for an invited audience of Broadway professionals.
"'The Invisible People' explores the imaginary and spiritual
life of children. I have a deep respect for young people, and my writing
is geared toward both empowering and celebrating them. In "The
Invisible People," our heroine, 12 year old Katie, is under enormous
pressure to grow up and give up things of childhood, namely her blankie
and her invisible friends. Simultaneously, she is struggling with her
fears around growing-up, fears she must confront in order to move through
life without her "security blanket." During the course of
the show we spend the evening with Katie as she dances with magical
leopard-spotted shoes, appears as a contestant on "You Bet Your
Adolescence" the show where EVERYONE is a loser, and confronts
her greatest fears, the dreaded Bogeyman. It's a true story... IF you
believe in magic."
Though much of her career has been devoted to creating works of art
with and for young people, Sybil's work outside the genre of theatre
with and for youth has also earned her attention. Her latest effort,
a screenplay based on her novel, "Beneficial Flowers" is a
very adult love story that nonetheless shares a common theme with the
"The Invisible People."
"Beneficial Flowers," is a very soulful story that looks
not at the spiritual life of a 12 year old girl but at the spiritual
rebirth of a 40 year old woman. "It's about an older woman and
a younger man and the rich, black earth of the heart. Into the life
of Ella Gray, a 40 year old professor who, in pouring all her passion
into others has somehow misplaced her own, comes a remarkable young
man who is dying of leukemia. Though he is her student, he takes her
on a spiritual journey that blossoms into a sexually charged love affair
threatening to tear both their worlds apart. Using the backdrop of growing
a garden as a metaphor for growing one's self, we follow Ella's soul
gardening as she struggles with the question that is the stuff of all
crossroads; shall she live the life she dreams of, or the life others
have dreamt for her? Juxtaposing Ella, who is afraid to live, with Joe,
who is unafraid to die, "Beneficial Flowers," is not a tragic
tale of love lost but of life lived." Sybil's other film credits
include work with Academy Award nominee Bill Suchy, Emmy Award winner
Charles St. Clair, and Nickelodeon Studios.
They say write what you know, and in reality Sybil is an University
Professor who has been teaching theatre at the college level for 14
years and who was voted Professor of the Year 1999-2000. At the University
of Central Florida, her primary assignment is of Lecturer in Theatre
for Young Audiences. A program she runs with Dr. Megan Alrutz, with
whom she co-created one of the nation's most distinctive Masters of
Fine Arts in Theatre for Young Audiences. The program, which offers
courses such as Circus Arts, Storytelling, Puppetry and Mask Making
is one of only a handful in the nation, and is the only one of it's
kind that places equal emphasis on developing the educator in the artist
AND the artist in the educator.
"Our graduates are a very eclectic crew, they are actors, directors,
writers, and administrators but they all share a common bond - they
are passionate about theatre for young audiences. Personally, I believe
we are born with an instrument and our environment teaches us how to
play it. Accordingly, it is our responsibility as Professors to provide
students with environments that challenge, with teachers that motivate,
and with art that inspires. That's what we're doing at UCF, training
the next generation of artists who will, we suspect, revolutionize the
field. The UCF graduate programs lives at the Orlando Repertory Theatre,
a professional theatre for young audiences in downtown Orlando.
If there is a tie that binds in Sybil's career, it is using the arts
to heal and to help. She initiated a program called 'Writes of Spring'
at the Orlando Rep that gives young author's a playwriting festival
of their own. And she has worked with Arts In Medicine, a program that
brings the arts to terminally ill pediatric patients. During her career,
she has also worked with "Take Back the Night," in conjunction
with Rape Awareness, and with the Guardian ad Litem Program, which provides
court appointed advocates to victim's of child abuse. Recently, she
has begin a series of workshops inspired by Julia Cameron's, "The
Artist's Way," that are designed to access and nurture the artist
"I work in a field that is about rejection and we (artist) are
the first ones in line to abuse ourselves. We work long hours for very
little pay, we go without sleep and food, and often beat ourselves up
emotionally because we "didn't get the part." In the workshops
we look at the negative language we use, pinpoint toxic relationships
we are entangled in so we can free ourselves from them, and take ourselves
out on artist dates (which are essentially designated times set aside
to nurture ourselves and our artist). I believe that we are born with
Creative DNA - a blueprint, if you will, of our unfolding. We are, all
of us, artists, and expressing ourselves creatively is essential to
our well-being." She has presented these workshops as far away
as Athens, Greece and even integrates them into her courses at the University.
"We expect a lot from our graduate students but we rarely teach
them how to give back to themselves." On a human level, if we can't
nurture ourselves how can we hope to nurture others?"
Click Images to Enlarge
The Bridge to Terabithia
The Yellow Boat
The Lion, the Witch,
and the Wardrobe
The Yellow Boat
The Journey to Friday
The Bridge to Terabithia
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