Anyone who has spent any time around the local community theater scene has had a good chance of working with or seeing a show involving Geoff Hall at some point.
Hall, 40, has lived in Meadville his entire life and gives much of his time to volunteering at local theaters and especially in introducing area youth to live theater. He's estimated he's done around 100 shows as an actor, director or stage crew. This month he wrapped up co-directing and acting in Meadville Community Theatre's “Anne of Green Gables.”
This summer he has planned a children's theater festival — tickets will be available through the Meadville Council on the Arts — and next spring he will direct a youth show at MCT. He not only works with youth on stage but as a therapeutic support staff professional with Regional Behavioral Consultants.
What do you enjoy about participating in theater and why spend so much time involved in it?
Theater has become like a second home to me. Many of my closest friends volunteer for the theater in one form or another so I get to spend my evenings with them. That's the reason I bounce from show to show; the theater is such a fun place to connect with friends and bring to life something that an audience will love. There is nothing like the applause an audience gives to let you know you have done a good job.
When did you start directing and why did you decide to move to that side of theater production?
I directed my first show when I was 18; it was a disaster. I knew pretty earlier on that I wanted to direct, to bring my vision of a show onto the stage. So, I did as much theater as I could, I became that annoying tag along kid who was always following everyone around asking questions about "Why did you set the scene up like this?" or "How do you teach yourself to cry on stage?" The information I learned from so many amazing actors, directors and stage managers shaped how I direct and still direct to this day.
You have directed many youth theater shows and seem to get many kids involved in theater. Why is that important to you?
I have always found it easier to connect to youth rather then adults. The youth who do our shows aren't just a cast; they are family, they look out for each other, hang out together and help each other out, and I have developed some real connections with them and their families. Youth are easier to direct than adults, as they are young enough they haven't developed a sense that they know better then you, they just want to learn. I have a fantastic crew that helps me, and we always refer to the youth as actors, never kids.
It is important for them to know they are just as important as adult actors, and I have said many times an all youth show can be as good or better then any show with all adults in it, and I stand by that statement.
How do you think children and youth benefit from both seeing and participating in theater?
I think it is important for children to do theater because it opens a new world to them. They have the chance to make new friends and stretch themselves to try new things. Theater teaches public speaking, problem solving and how to work with people to reach a common goal. Many kids never get to see a show and miss seeing actors close up; that's why whenever we do a youth show we give the children a chance to see the actors after the show, to tell the actors how good they did and see they are just normal everyday youth.
What is the children's theater festival that is being planned?
This summer I am pleased to be the co-creator of the children's theater festival here in Meadville along with my father. On Saturday, Aug. 10, three of the four theaters in Meadville will each perform a different one act show for children four times throughout the day starting at 9:30 a.m. Meadville Community Theatre will be performing in the downtown mall, French Creek Community Theater will be performing a show in their space on Chestnut Street and Meadville Council on the Arts will be performing in their theater above the Market House.
A $10 admission gets you admitted to all three shows. In addition, Chestnut Street will be full of vendors, performers, live music, food, games and crafts. All the proceeds gained from this event are being donated to Autism Speaks to fund research into causes of autism. A great event for a great cause.