MY ART STORY by

Mary Jo Stockton

Farmville
Virginia

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Group of actors in outlandish constumns behind jail cell bars

May the Farce be With You, December 2015. Photo courtesy of Mary Jo Stockton

I fell in love with theater as a very young child growing up in Scotland, UK. My first theater experiences were attending the traditional British pantomimes which play in almost every theater during the holiday season. I saw magic happen on stage as the characters of fairytale and legend made their hero's journey to win the day. Along the way the panto dame would make us laugh, the "big bad" would make us boo, and the dancing and singing would thrill the soul. It set me up for a life of loving theater.

When I came to live in a small, rural town in Virginia, I discovered my local community theater, the Waterworks Players in Farmville, Virginia. I could continue to indulge my love of theater without having to travel to one of the big cities over an hour's drive away. Slowly I became more and more involved until I found myself stage managing and then even taking the leap on stage as a performer. However, most of our shows only brought in adult audiences. I had a child of my own by then and was sad that he would only see pantomimes if we traveled back to Scotland during the holidays. I approached my colleagues at Waterworks and introduced them to pantomime. They trusted me and decided to try it out. Now, 11 years later, the children of Farmville are growing up with the annual holiday tradition of attending Waterwork's yearly pantomime. We have children attending theater in a low-income, underserved rural area. For the past six years, I have directed them myself using many children in the cast and crew. We couldn't do it without the support of funding for the arts.