Janese Silvey is the current story specialist/strategist at Stephens College.
It didn’t take long for elementary students at Stephens College Children’s School to get the gist of the play.
“Why didn’t she just change her shirt?” one asked, before slowly realizing that there are some characteristics, such as skin color, that can’t be changed.
And recognizing and appreciating diversity is the goal of “What’s the Difference,” an educational play from Sprouts Plays for Living at Stephens College.
The production, performed at several Columbia elementary schools in March, follows the story of Alice, who, with her white shirt, doesn’t fit in at a school where groups are defined by shirt colors.
Sprouts Plays for Living grew out of an idea senior Dylan Shelofsky had for a children’s theatre company at Stephens. The daughter of teachers, Shelofsky wanted to combine her interest in education with her passion for theatre.
When Stephens President Dianne Lynch heard about the idea, she connected Shelofsky with Stephens alumna Sara Crosby, coordinator of regional affiliates for the national Plays for Living Company.
Shelofsky discovered the ready-made productions were exactly the type of messages she wanted to get to area children.
“It’s a teaching vessel,” she said. “Children will recognize themes. They’ll recognize ways to solve problems.”
Stephens is the first college or university to become an affiliate of Plays for Living, a not-for-profit group that began during World War II as a way to promote patriotism.
Stephens theatre students who perform the plays are joined on site by Stephens’ Master of Education in Counseling students who facilitate small group discussions with the children afterwards. In the future, students in Stephens’ new Event and Convention Management program will help coordinate the production schedule. Although graduating and moving to New York next month, Shelofsky envisions future Sprouts Plays for Living participants offering plays to schools throughout the academic year.
The partnership is a perfect fit for Stephens, Lynch said.
“It allows our students to share their talent and expertise with the community while also developing professional experiences that will benefit them beyond graduation,” she said. “And it represents a new kind of community involvement that will benefit so many area children.”