Article by Cathy Breslaw
The Visionary Dance Theatre and School for the Performing Arts celebrates it’s fifth anniversary. Spencer Powell, Artistic Director, Producer and founder of the theater programs, explained the many joys and challenges of heading up some of the best performing arts in San Diego. His perspective is varied and enriched by twenty-five years experience as actor, dancer, artistic director, choreographer and producer. In fact, he has won many awards along the way for choreography, acting and dance. Aside from the School for the Performing Arts and Visionary Dance Theatre, in 2012, Powell created a professional Visionary Musical Theatre Company. He has also joined forces with Mickey Mounarath to create Mounarath-Powell Production Company which focuses on producing up-and-coming performing artists in all forms.
The selections of shows, concerts and programs performed at these theaters and the way the ‘business side’ of things are handled are in part, influenced by Spencer Powell’s own background. Powell explained that he came from a poor, single parent family where his mother cleaned houses as a way of providing for her family. When Spencer was only 8 years old he was exposed to dance and he states that it opened up a new world of possibilities for him, giving him self esteem and confidence, leading to his future success. Today, he seeks to educate his students about history, literature and math through the performing arts. He also exposes the children to all aspects of the theater including having them work and participate in selling tickets, cleaning the theater, working the lighting and choreography.
Powell points out that only 1% of performing artists succeed at making a living and he believes that his including all aspects of the ‘business’ in student training will help provide them with useful skills that may open doors for them. Powell tackles challenging topics like racial relations and traditional societal roles in his choice of content for performances. He cites using songs like ‘Black and Blue’ from ‘Ain’t Mis’Behaven’ and ‘You Have to Be Carefully Taught’ from South Pacific, as ways to open dialogues with children about history and culture.
To enhance the ‘community ‘ connections, the school encourages parents of students to act. In the performances, building family activities as well as community engagement and Powell says these shows always sell out. The Visionary School received its non-profit status in January 2014 so that the school will be applying for grants and scholarships. Other community outreach programs are extended in dance and theater programs through a teen intern program working with Helix High School and Point Loma High School. A musical review called “Visions of Broadway” and the production of Powell’s unique version of “Gypsy” are shows to look forward to in the coming months.