SYNOPSISLONG LIVE TOY, Defending Children’s Theatre in the Nickel City profiles a professional children’s theatre company, the Theatre of Youth (TOY). Buffalo, NY is home to TOY and it is a city that is rich with cultural resources – boasting over 20 theatre companies. It is also ranked the 3rd poorest large city in America. As local county funding cuts loom, we watch the TOY Company produce their 40th season. In the face of this, we take a bird’s eye view of the inner workings of this devoted theater company as they meticulously produce a season of plays that are artistically exciting, innovative in form and style and relevant in content to the children in the community. As the funding issue persists, we follow the consummate professionals at TOY transform from artists to activists, under their fearless leader Meg Quinn. Her belief is that the health of any cultural community is dependent on the support of public and private entities, and that it begins by giving children the opportunity to discover the possibilities of their lives through art. We listen to the politicians, community leaders, artists, actors and children explore the idea of how an organization like this can directly affect the health of a community and in turn grow a strong and vibrant society.
In 2010, I had the occasion to sit in on rehearsals
with the mostly adult cast of professional actors at the Theatre of
Youth Company in Buffalo, NY. They were producing a play about the
occupation of Denmark during the Holocaust. It was after that experience
that I shared with my partner, Austin McLoughlin, my thoughts about the
brilliant and important work that TOY was quietly doing in our
community. Not only were they putting an important story on stage for
young audiences but they were educating their actors about the
significance of a live theatre experience to a child. We began to
entertain the notion of why Buffalo, the 3rd poorest large city in the
country, has been able to sustain one of the oldest professional
Children’s Theatre Companies in the US. We recognized the City’s
history is rich, as is its cultural resource – boasting over 20 theatre
companies. We both have lived in major metropolitan areas in the US and
it is easy to say that we also recognized how depressed Buffalo is. So
why is it that a group of well educated, talented artists have chosen to
dedicate their lives to this art form given that money in the community
is sparse to support their work?
It was during that very conversation that we decided how great it would be to have an inspiring story come out of this forgotten town, to tell the inspiring story of TOY and their 40th season. As we began to document the season, our self-funded short film project was propelled to a feature length story with the actions of our local county executive’s abrupt funding cuts to all non-profit professional theatre companies. The funding difficulties and TOY’s proactive response prompted us to tell the story of TOY and their dedication to and defense of theatre for children.
We wanted to express to a greater community that Meg Quinn, TOY’s Artistic Director, and all of the dedicated professional artists working there are devoting their lives work so that the children in this struggling community can have a place just for them, that tell their stories. We are hoping the viewer will recognize the significance of theatre as a form of storytelling – to make links to literacy, knowledge and education. Our aim is to help the viewer gain perspective on the significance of this art form in young people’s lives and the importance of how an organization like this can directly impact the health of a community. Most importantly, we believe this story will translate to communities across America and can awaken the idea that a healthy cultural community grows a strong and vibrant society.
Austin P McLoughlin (Director, Producer, Music, Editor, Camera) has a keen interest in telling stories through film. Austin was trained in production and editing through his broadcasting degree from SUNY College at Buffalo. He is a self-taught musician and operates a small music studio. Austin apprenticed as an editor in NYC early in his career and soon after took work producing satellite conference for corporations.
Mary Beth Murray (Director, Producer, Editor, Camera) is the recent founder of Sunlit Bridge, a film production company that aims to tell the stories of an under served community. She has utilized her BA degree in Public Communication throughout her career in the corporate and non profit world, while investing resources to support social programs to better the community in which she lives.