The Story of Pollyanna Theatre Company
Many people have asked us why the name of our company is “Pollyanna.” The answer is as simple as the outlook of a child. The answer is also as complicated as childhood itself can become.
The founders of Pollyanna Theatre Company believed in the power of the arts to bring much needed joy and hope into the lives of young people as well as into the life of the child that is alive inside each of us regardless of our age. And no other character we know embodies this timeless power of optimism better than Eleanor Porter’s timeless little girl, Pollyanna.
Eleanor H. Porter (1868-1920) began publishing books in 1907 with a series of three novels about a young girl called “Miss Billy.” But at that same time a different little girl was taking shape in her imagination. In 1913 Pollyanna was published and the character Pollyanna Whittier was introduced. The book was an overnight success with over a million copies of the book sold in the first year. The demand for a sequel was immense, and two years later the equally successful Pollyanna Grows Up was published. These two books became popularly known as “Glad Books,” because this is Pollyanna’s favorite word. While dated in some respects, the book continues to charm and delight readers today.
Pollyanna is a young child who faces great disappointments, poverty, and even cruelty. She is orphaned, shuffled from place to place, pitied by many but loved by few. But through it all, Pollyanna, with the wisdom and optimism of a child, sees reasons to be glad. When she feels down, Pollyanna plays a game she has invented, The Glad Game where she literally counts her blessings and looks for goodness. Ultimately, it is through this character that we meet the outlook of Eleanor Porter who once wrote, “I have never believed that we ought to deny discomfort and pain and evil: I have merely thought that it is far better to greet the unknown with cheer.”
It is this basic understanding and belief that is at the heart of all that Pollyanna Theatre strived to produce. Childhood can be a very difficult time with very real problems facing both parents and children. Theatre should speak to those issues honestly, but ultimately with an empowering sense of hope. Therefore, HOPE and GLADNESS was at the heart of all Pollyanna Theatre created. Pollyanna did not attempt to candy-coat the world we created but rather always showed our audience that hope is REAL and does exist in the world that they live in every day.
Our audience was full of Pollyannas: Children who face great challenges of all sorts but who are growing stronger as individuals and who have the creative power to overcome great obstacles. It was our goal to inspire them to be the best at “The Glad Game” that they can possibly become.
The founders of Pollyanna Theatre Company believed that theatre is a powerful teaching tool that speaks to people of all ages in a unique and powerful way through a variety of visual, aural, and emotional languages. Therefore, theatre should be a part of all general education from Pre-Kindergarten through adulthood. Toward that end, Pollyanna Theatre worked alongside educators to inspire, motivate, and teach audiences of all ages. Although the company’s primary focus was upon young audience members, the ensemble performed top quality theatrical productions that spoke to and illuminated the human spirit and condition for all ages.
Humankind has traditionally used stories to pass its history from one generation to the next. These stories, such as folktales, fairytales, and myths have recorded both the best and the worst elements of human nature. We believe that such stories and the characters that inhabit them provide powerful opportunities to re-explore, re-envision, re-discover, and re-create what it means to be alive today. We also believe that classic literature is still being created today. Therefore, The Pollyanna Theatre Company was dedicated to producing both old and new plays that invite audience members to reflect upon themselves and the society around them in meaningful and constructive ways.
By its very nature, theatre teaches by example. The Pollyanna Theatre Company embraced this power and was dedicated to utilizing it to support educators in the Pre-K-12 curriculum whenever possible, creating and providing valuable teaching resources that accompany each of its productions. This does not, however, mean that Pollyanna’s productions would be overly or overtly didactic. Our goal was to do the opposite! The ensemble strived to create true art that provided avenues for ethical and moral reflection and discussion.
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