Taking field trips to see Storyland Theatre was a regular part of Michael Fortino’s school experience while a pupil at Westmont Elementary School. Now, the 2011 Evans High School graduate is taking the stage and performing with Storyland with hopes of inspiring other young audiences.
“It was my first experience with theater,” said Fortino, a Georgia Regents University student, of his field trips to see Storyland. “It was always magical.”
Fortino plays the role of Prince Charming in Storyland’s upcoming production of Sleeping Beauty. Watching Storyland as a child ignited an interest in theater in him.
Storyland Theatre is celebrating its 25th anniversary season this year. One of Storyland’s founders and its executive director is Barbara Feldman, a Columbia County resident who wanted her young daughter to have the experience of seeing quality, live theater. At the time, there was little specifically designed for school-age audiences, she said.
“When we started, our goal was to teach children a love of the arts and theater. Hopefully, they would want to participate in it or at least attend it in the future,” said Feldman.
Each season, Storyland presents three different shows; many of them are based on well-known fairy tales, but they have been written with a Storyland twist. Each play is about 45 minutes long, and former Richmond County principal and current Storyland board member Nancy Cisick creates a curriculum guide to help teachers incorporate the state education standards into their field trip to Storyland.
Original music has been added to some of the plays including Sleeping Beauty.
Feldman said it’s gratifying to see someone such as Fortino, who grew up attending Storyland, become inspired by the group’s work and develop a passion for theater. Fortino has also performed at Georgia Regents University and at Le Chat Noir.
“He’s the perfect example of what we set out to do,” she said.
Sleeping Beauty is Fortino’s second show with Storyland. He debuted in the fall in the production of Beware What You Ask of a Fairy. He said he loved the experience.
“It’s always fun to go back on the journey I started when I was a kid,” he said.
Sleeping Beauty will be performed at 9:30 and 10:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 2 through Friday, April 5, and at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at the Imperial Theatre. The weekday performances require a reservation; the cost per ticket is $4.50 Reservations may be made by calling (706) 736-3455.
The Saturday family matinee does not require a reservation. Tickets are $5. Active duty military and their families receive free admission to the Saturday matinee.