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Behind the Scenes at SCPA: Matilda, Time Timer and Arts Education

Posted by Christen Barbercheck on

It’s almost show time at The School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in downtown Cincinnati. About 20% of the student body is intensely preparing to open Matilda November 7-10. These talented kids are fine-tuning songs, creating costumes, building sets and even working on the lighting. “It’s an all-hands-on-duty production,” says Angela Powell Walker, Artistic Director at SCPA. “I’ve been directing and leading the team of staff that prepares the students to run Matilda at curtains up! You’re going to see a top-notch, Broadway-caliber production.”

Part of Cincinnati Public Schools, SCPA is a K-12 magnet arts school with 1,400 kids nestled in downtown Cincinnati. Students in fourth grade and up focus on one of six disciplines: Creative writing, visual arts, drama, dance, vocal music or instrumental music. Those in seventh grade and up may choose from a seventh major—technical theatre. These artistic pursuits happen on top of all the normal course work found at any other school. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” says Angela Powell Walker, Artistic Director. “It takes a lot of discipline. It’s not a place not to be 100% committed.”

A typical school day might run from 8:26 a.m. to 3 p.m. followed by a rehearsal that lasts until 6:30. Performance nights run later, and there’s homework to stay on top of, too. The school’s 2019-2020 season featured four different main stage productions, including Matilda and The Nutcracker. Some kids go on from the experience—officially called pre-professional arts training—to become world-class opera singers, Broadway stars or professionals in lighting, sound or costume design. And others find success in just about any career you can name.

Students put on four main-stage productions each year, and Powell Walker chose Matilda for 2019 because it’s a show for everyone. Kids in grades 5 through 12 are participating in the production and helping communicate the show’s powerful message. It’s about bullying and how you deal with it—even when you’re forced into choices you don’t want to make. All packaged in a story that revolves around a magical little girl.

During rehearsals for Matilda, Powell Walker turned to the Time Timer® MAX to help her keep things on track and loved that she could change out the faces for different periods of time. The two-hour face could help her track an entire rehearsal. For a quick break during rehearsal, she might choose the 5-minute face. She also used it to track how much time to spend on different sections of the production. “It’s gone off a few times when I wasn’t ready,” she says. “But it’s helped us be more productive.”

Powell Walker believes the arts enrich education and help build whole human beings. But even if you don’t teach at an arts-focused school, you can bring creativity into the classroom. “I think it’s important for every teacher to understand that every kid is artistic,” she says. “Meet them where they are and bring them up.” Think about how to apply creativity to everyday subjects to make them more exciting for students, bringing out their artistic sparks.

Want to see Matilda? Tickets are available from the SCPA box office (108 West Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH, 45202), Monday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. Or you can call (513) 363-8100 ext. 2 or order tickets online.

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