By Joseph Pratt
I’ve worked with Susan Foster over the years in different capacities, a member of the press, a volunteer with PACT, a techie in her shows; she is one director I’ve worked with more than any other. Over my time spent around Foster, I’ve constantly heard the same remark from nearly everyone, which is the observation of her highly skilled nerves and the recommendation she become canonized as a saint as quickly as possible.
Children’s theatre is a rough shore to sail. Children’s theatre involves educating and instructing students sometimes as young as five or as old as 18, including the 15-year-old students who already know everything and have had time to become divas.
There is also the priority of managing the group of kids, with minds that wander and feet that can’t sit still. Yet, over the many years of watching her work, I’ve never seen her lose her cool with any student and she still manages to get everything completed beyond expectation.
Foster masterfully controls groups of 50 and more students in a manner that allows the kids to have fun, while getting work accomplished. She instantly earns the respect of each kid she works with and continues to produce high-quality shows composed only of the skill set of young artists.
Like most people who get involved in community theatre, Foster claims to have started performing in church, with plays and choir. Opportunities for children’s theatre wasn’t available for Foster when she was young, so she didn’t get heavily involved in theatre until she was in college.
Foster was bitten by the theatre bug and started performing in plays, musicals, operas, choirs and any other performing outlet she could find as she got older. Her favorite roles usually included secondary characters that she could have more fun with, but she also credits Robert Anne from “Nunsense” as one of her favorite roles.
Foster was involved with Shawnee State University, Southern Ohio Light Opera and Portsmouth Little Theatre for many years.
As her daughter got older, Susan was serving on the Portsmouth Little Little Board of Governors and decided to pursue a children’s theatre program during the dark times of summer.
It has been 16 years since she decided to pursue theatre for children and has directed over 27 shows since, touching the lives of over a thousand kids.
Even with her daughter graduating years ago and most of the kids she raised and taught having grown out of the program, Foster continues to teach more and more generations of students, growing the program each year with a faithful team of stage moms, friend and Director Becky Lovins, alumni volunteers and young, eager minds. A program that started with Portsmouth Little theatre and catered to only 50 students a year has now grown to an entire annual program under Portsmouth Area Arts Council, serving over 150 kids a year and only continuing momentum.
Foster will always be considered a saint in my book for not only building such a large and wonderful program for kids, but for her compassion for and understanding of each child she works with.
Joseph Pratt can be reached at the Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt.