By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
While school drama programs were some of the first to fall under the axe of budget cuts, Salem-Keizer Inspirational Theater is filling in the gaps.
“SKIT started as a faith-based organization, but it’s mostly about keeping kids busy and providing them good role models. It’s become a mix of traditional students, homeschooled kids, Christian kids and non-Christian kids,” said Lori Hammer, SKIT founder.
The program is in the midst of preparing elementary students for a revue program in November and middle and high school students are ramping up for its holiday play, A Christmas Carol. Despite being an oft-told tale, Hammer said to expect the unexpected from SKIT’s retelling. The production crew plans to employ blacklight to give its Christmas ghosts the proper ethereal glow among other surprises.
“It wouldn’t be out of the question to find the Ghost of Christmas Present to be rapping,” Hammer said.
As the graduate of a college drama program, Hammer felt the loss of school-based theater programs deeply, but it wasn’t about the loss of roles available.
“It’s not about being an Academy Award-winning actress, drama gives you self-confidence and a way to behave in public,” Hammer said.
With classes for students of all ages, SKIT-L classes offer training in music, acting and dance for the youngest students. Students in middle and high school can choose two areas of concentration from: musical theatre, acting, improvisation, singing, dance and theatre tech. Interested students and families can sign up for classes beginning in January at www.skittheatre.com.
Classes meet at New Haven Church, 4290 Portland Road N.E., in Salem. Hammer said students will perform Once Upon a Mattress in the spring.
“Sometimes I pick the play to tantalize the kids and sometimes it’s to entice the families,” she said. “Mostly, I just want plays that will give everyone from the theater geeks to the only-curious something to work for.”
While she’s pleased with the success of the program, Hammer said the biggest reward has been seeing families come together over the productions.
“I like that the parents are involved alongside their kids, it gives them a common language,” Hammer said.