Young musical director's 'Schoolhouse Rock' premieres Thursday

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 | 4:38 p.m. CDT; updated 2:50 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
Izzie Baldwin directs a group dance audition for “Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr.” on Jan. 26 at Benton Elementary. Baldwin attends Stephens College and is the youngest director Performing Arts in Children's Education has used for one of its shows.

COLUMBIA — On a Sunday earlier this month, Izzie Baldwin tried to teach six girls their dance moves for the musical “Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr.”

“Hit! ‘Conjunction Junction, what’s your function,’” Baldwin said, stomping her foot on the word “hit.”

If you go

WHAT: PACE production of “Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr.” WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday WHERE: Smithton Middle School, 3600 W. Worley St. ADMISSION: $7

All in a row, the girls followed her direction: Step! “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?” they sang. Their high voices trailed as they paid closer attention to their dance moves. With opening night still 2½ weeks away, they still had time to put everything together.

These are busy times for Izzie Baldwin. As a theater performance major at Stephens College, she takes 20 credit hours of classes, participates in the school’s theater productions and directs 35 elementary and middle school students in “Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr.” for Performing Arts in Children’s Education (PACE).

At 19, Baldwin is the youngest director PACE has used, but she’s been doing theater since she was 4, when her mother put her in a small production.

At 8, Baldwin played Tootie in a Columbia Entertainment Company production of “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Her mother, who is co-artistic director of PACE, said that after teaching and directing for 30 years she can spot natural talent and commitment. Izzie had it.

“Her performance wasn’t overdone or mechanical,” Debbie Baldwin said. “She blew me away and that has nothing to do with being her mother.”

Izzie Baldwin credits her talent and her passion to her parents. Her mother taught her about performance and directing, while her father, Tim Baldwin, co-band director at Gentry Middle School, showed her the world of music.

“They have given me this ability,” she said. “I inherently have it.”

For as long as she can remember, theater has been a family affair, Baldwin said, and in that sense “Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr.” is no different. Izzie is the director; her older sister, Katharine, is the costume designer; Debbie is the producer; and Tim is the technical director.

Though she is most often on stage for productions, Izzie Baldwin has enjoyed the experience sitting in the director’s chair has afforded her.

“I am able to see my creation right in front of my eyes,” she said. “I tell the kids what to do, help them through it and I get to see what I have done. It’s like I am sharing my art.”

Through the rehearsal process she also tried to reiterate to the actors what the play is all about: learning can be fun. The musical draws from “Schoolhouse Rock,” a series of Saturday morning short cartoons that teach English, math and history.

As the choreographer, Baldwin has taught the kids different styles of dance for each musical number. “Conjunction Junction,” for example, has a few moves from Bob Fosse, the Tony Award winning director and choreographer.

Baldwin acknowledges that directing has had its challenges; she has had to learn to balance fun and discipline.

“I like working with the kids because I am a kid myself,” she said. “It’s hard for me to crack down on them and be mean.”

She also had to learn to balance time. Between her school work and the show, her days usually start at 9 a.m. and do not end until about 11 p.m. Baldwin said that although the occasional nap and a lot of diet soda helps her stay energized, there is one thing that keeps her going above all.

“It’s not a nine-to-five job for me,” she said. “I love what I am doing and I am happy to be doing it.”

Baldwin’s mother notices the joy and inspiration her daughter pulls from the art.

“She is happiest when she is creating,” Debbie Baldwin said. “She is one of those people who truly expresses herself through theater. It is not ego-driven for her.”

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Richard Hayden April 24, 2008 | 10:51 a.m.

Having had the pleasure of working with every family member and watching the kids grow let me say, "we simply love and admire the whole Baldwin family", glad they all share their gifts with our community!!

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