LOS ANGELES -- There are lots of local theatre directors who work with children but only one who has had an orphanage named after her.
Stacey McKennan, president and executive director of See Above Productions, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports two children's theatre groups, was honored in 1995 by having a home in Hyderabad, India dedicated to her. That same year saw the "Stacey McKennan Scholarship Fund" established in Hyderabad to fund education for needy children.
McKennan, a longtime educator, community volunteer, and theatre & dance director, had taken a children's show Peace Child India to that country a year earlier. The show, one of nine she has produced over the last decade, toured the rural region around Hyderabad, planting trees as well as performing.
See Above Productions' two groups are Klub Tribe and Peace Child Repertory. Klub Tribe works with kids in the eight to 12 range, Peace Child with teens up to 18.
Multi-ethnic in makeup, the groups are open to any child in the Los Angeles area with a desire to promote social awareness, cultural understanding and environmental consciousness through performances and community involvement. "We meet every Sunday at the Jewel Box Theatre in North Hollywood," said McKennan. "Right now, the older unit, for example, is working on a show about teen suicide. We bring in experts on the subject to talk to the kids. After much discussion, they then break up into small groups which each write a scene. These scenes are performed for the company. After more discussion and input from me as director, the scenes are further refined and, eventually, woven into a whole. Then we're ready to start hitting schools, shelters, hospitals and theatres around the city. Some of our shows are invited to others cities both in the USA and abroad."
In addition to India, McKennan's youth theatre has traveled to Northern Ireland, Russia, South Africa, Jordan and Mexico. In 1995 SAB was invited to appear at the Edinburgh Festival.
Utilizing the performing and visual arts, including music, dance, theatre, painting, drawing and writing, the company has explored such issues as child abuse, street violence, AIDS, homelessness, poverty, drug addiction and war.
Following the 1991 L.A. riots, SAB was the first to produce a theatrical experience for youth. The performance, which took place at the Shrine Auditorium, allowed local kids to explore and present to the city their views and ideas concerning the riots. The L.A. Cultural Affairs Dept. supported the production with a $3000 grant, but otherwise McKennan funds her operation out of private donations.
Another memorable show was Peace Child, the first peace-oriented musical to be performed in the Middle East. The event was sponsored by the Crown Princess of Jordan.
For further information, contact See Above Productions at POB 224, Agoura Hills, CA 91376-0224. Tel. (818) 609-2463. Fax (818) 706-8892.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent