Brisby Andrews is the Head and Artistic Director of Young People’s Theatre (YPT) at St. Charles Community College. She graduated from the University of Kansas (with a BS in Pharmacy) and performed in various community theater groups since then. She began her affiliation with YPT as a parent with two boys in the program. She loves teaching and believes theater skills are life skills that benefit every single person.
Interviewed by Stephen M. Thompson, Ph.D.
Welcome to OpeneBeast. Tell us about yourself.
I live in Lake St. Louis and am the mother of two sons and a daughter. I practiced pharmacy at KU Medical Center and at various retail pharmacies in the St. Louis area, but, for the past fifteen years, I have been involved in theater arts. My mother was an English literature and drama educator and so I was immersed in all things theater from my earliest years. I developed a love and respect for theatre skills and saw firsthand just what they add to a child’s development, both intellectually and socially. Through my own experiences performing and directing in many venues, and subsequently, through my children’s theatrical experiences, I realized how these skills can be used in positive ways for every child – not just children wanting to become performers. My oldest son, Sean Andrews, has a performance degree from Millikin University, and I feel very lucky to be able to work with him at YPT. My goal is to provide a variety of theatrical opportunities that will allow children of all abilities to experience the magic of working together in order to create something in which they can be very proud.
How and why did you get into theatre and directing?
Young People’s Theatre (YPT) was the reason. YPT was started 23 years ago to enable kids and their families to have a chance to perform real theater. It was a small program initially, but has grown over the years to incorporate classes, day-camps, major musical productions, musical revues, and plays. We teach tech skills to parents and volunteers and offer mentoring for students and community volunteers in all backstage areas and costuming. YPT is very much a volunteer driven organization and parents are the backbone of our productions. They assist with ticketing, refreshments, cast supervision, crewing, etc. and we consider ourselves one big family.
Talk to us about your involvement with the Young People’s Theatre.
I got involved with YPT first as a parent. I was later recruited by the previous director, Kay Christopher, to become YPT’s artistic director. I had worked backstage during the years my children were involved and initially I assistant directed because I had younger children at home, and wanted to be able to have more time with them. I became head of YPT in 2005 and my son joined me in 2008.
What’s the best project you have coordinated or directed thus far?
I have been involved with many projects and they are all so varied that they can’t be compared, primarily because one of my goals is to offer different genres so the students will be exposed to all aspects of theater. But, that said, of my many favorites, Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream ranks high on the list because of my love of William Shakespeare, followed by the musicals Les Miserables and Thoroughly Modern Mille. Because my personal mission is to make each project better than the last and to make each student feel like they are integral to the success, I feel our recent project “Oliver!” accomplished that and was very proud of the cast and orchestra.
So do you also teach?
I teach whenever I can, but unfortunately, as the productions and cast size have gotten bigger over the years, I do not often get the opportunity. I greatly miss my classes when I can’t fit that into my schedule, because love of children and teaching is what brought me to YPT.
Any upcoming projects or initiatives you would like to discuss?
The 2012-2013 season will be YPT’s most challenging thus far. For the first time we will be using an orchestra for the holiday show, as well as the spring show. The holiday show will be White Christmas, and it requires a very large orchestra and a lot of specialty dance. The spring show will be The Scarlet Pimpernel. Both of these shows have intricate costume requirements and highly technical choreography, but I am excited about the opportunity to produce them. The Scarlet Pimpernel, is not as well known, but is a wonderful action adventure story with many exciting and humorous moments, as well as poignant, dramatic moments. The sword fights are always fun for both the directors and cast, and the audience will love the sly and sophisticated humor, definite statement about treating people with decency, and overall triumph of the good guys. That mixed with our fall spoof of TV “monster families”, traditional, beloved holiday show, and very good music, should make this our best season yet. That is always our goal!
What are your leisure time activities?
Because of the number of hours I spend reading scripts, practicing choreography, and planning fundraisers, I have little time for leisure, but my hobbies include reading, gardening, sewing, running, and biking with my daughter. I recently added a golden retriever puppy to my household and plan to spend the summer getting him ready to hike with me.
For more details about Young People’s Theatre visit www.stchas.edu/ypt/.