On December 8th, 2022, the RiverBend Growth Association Young Adults Committee visited Alton Little Theater to volunteer our services to the Executive Director, Lee Cox, while also learning about the arts along the way. The Young Adults Committee comprises two seniors and two juniors per school hand selected from Alton High School, Civic Memorial High School, East Alton-Wood River High School, Marquette Catholic High School, and Roxana High School. Being selected for this position is an honor and an excellent opportunity for everyone involved.
Several non-profits, including Alton Little Theater, presented their businesses to the committee, and the five we felt most needed our support were chosen. Out of those five, each school got to pick which one they wanted to work with. Then, each school was responsible for contacting their non-profit, setting up the meeting date, and finding out what the committee would do to help.
This month, the Alton High School representatives got to lead the committee on a volunteering experience. The Alton High student leaders are Anbrielle Blake (Sr.), Jayden Ross (Sr.), Emily Schrumpf (Jr.), and Khas Spitz (Jr.). During Anbrielle’s high school career, she has excelled academically and enrolled in a number of dual honors and college courses. She has a passion for the STEM field. This past summer she participated in The Young Scientist Program, an eight-week research internship at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Anbrielle worked under the mentorship of Dr. Kyle A. Cottrell, researching gene editing in breast cancer. Anbrielle plans to major in Biomedical Science with a research focus of Genetics and ultimately becoming a physician. Anbrielle is active in her school and local community. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Math Honor Society, and Upward Bound. In addition to volunteering, she is a loved employee at Shivers Frozen Custard. At the age of fifteen she started her first business @adorbeautyllc.store. Anbrielle formulated and sells natural hair growth oil, body butter and other cosmetic products. She also enjoys traveling, baking and spending time with family and friends. Anbrielle is excited to announce she has already been accepted to multiple colleges in the region and plans to make a commitment soon.
Jayden participates in the National Honors Society, Upward Bound, Minority Excellence, and Physics Club. He plans to major in engineering and business in a four-year college or university after high school. He hopes to eventually earn a degree in engineering to become a mechanical engineer and succeed as an entrepreneur in the engineering industry. Furthermore, Emily is involved in soccer at Alton, Marching 100, wind ensemble, pep band, symphonic orchestra, physics club, and biology club. After high school, she plans to attend a four-year college or university to study nursing and eventually graduate school to become a pediatric nurse practitioner. Khas is involved with the symphonic honor orchestra, and the physics club. After high school, she plans to major in environmental engineering.
Alton High School chose Alton Little Theater and led the rest of the committee on a volunteering experience. As the committee arrived, Lee Cox, the Executive Director, and Kevin Frakes, ALT’s Artistic Director, gave us the theater’s history, their stories, and how they fell in love with the arts. When asked how she got into theater, Cox replied, “My godmother, Dorothy Colonius was the founder of Alton Little Theater in 1933 and my parents, Gene and Winne Bailey were her students and became long-time educators in our community. So, I spent my childhood playing and helping out around the theater and was a theater major in college until I ultimately fell in love with psychology and became a Clinical Psychologist for 40 years. But I was always volunteering and performing at ALT when I could.” As the Executive Director, Lee handles a lot of the “behind the scenes” logistics to run the theater. Kevin deals with more technical aspects like making the backdrops for all the performances, and he even does a lot of casting roles for upcoming performances. Lee explained how she couldn’t accomplish anything without her amazing “team of guys”, including Kevin Frakes, Michael Cox (Lee’s husband), Brant McCance, Lief Anderson, and Dennis Stevenson, along with Gail Drillinger and Shea Maples.
Lee and Kevin led us on a grand tour of the establishment, where the committee got to see all the costume storage, dressing rooms, Kevin’s sheds where he does all the building, and the beautiful theater. The young adults proceeded to help Lee make some edible props for the upcoming performance and got to organize the candy shelves for the public to purchase snacks from. Possibly the most popular activity the committee got to partake in was testing out the theater’s new artificial snow blower. Lee then sat us all down and asked about advertising specifically towards the younger generation like ourselves. We explained to her that social media was a massive part of our generation’s lives and would be an excellent way to get young people to see shows at the community theater. She also wondered about getting young actors informed about ALT. We suggested connecting with the local high schools’ theater and music departments would be a great way to draw in young performers.
We asked Lee what she was looking forward to for the theater and she said, “Now, I am very excited to begin my years-long quest to bring a “Studio Series” of new plays to the ALT Showcase in the fall of 2023 and I am so blessed to work with talented playwrights across the country who have even granted ALT permission to perform a world premiere of their work! So I am looking forward to our planning for the next three years of programming and doing some musicals and wonderful plays that I’m sure the audiences will love! How lucky am I to produce art and make people smile!” She also added, “I love our concert artists and am so thrilled that I persuaded Kevin Frakes to bring back his tribute to Frank Sinatra in February – it was an early 70th Birthday present to me!”
Lee was very excited to have the RiverBend Growth Association Young Adults Committee to the theater and explained, “We love welcoming a new generation of leaders to Alton Little Theater because we know that THEY are the future of community theater who could well impact keeping the Arts Alive for everyone! As a parent, grandparent, former college professor and former School Psychologist, I was thrilled to spend a few hours with your group who demonstrated their intelligence and good sense about what makes for growth in any organization!” The Young Adults Committee thoroughly enjoyed the couple hours we got to spend at Alton Little Theater and we learned a lot along the way.