As the Morris Performing Arts Center embarks on the 100th-year in South Bend as a historic staple to downtown, it’s important to recognize the incredible value the performing arts have in a community. Through the Equity in the Arts Committee leadership, the goal of the next 100 years isn’t simply to sustain, but to thrive in new and ever-improving ways, open its doors to South Bend residents from every walk of life.
An Essay by Karen White
South Bend City Council Member and Morris 100 Equity in the Arts Committee Member
As I think back about my experiences with the Morris Theater, I realize that it was not until after the birth of my first grandchild that I really began attending functions and events. I’ve lived all my adult life in South Bend, and so I knew about the Morris Theater and the opportunities to attend different types of shows, but going to shows was just not part of my lifestyle at the time. The reason could partly be because I grew up in a family of twelve siblings and going to the theater was a luxury that was not afforded to me as a child. I cannot recall when the arts and the shows at the Morris were ever offered to me.
After my granddaughter Jasmine was born, my priorities shifted to making sure that I was able to spend time with her. As she grew older and started becoming familiar with popular children’s television shows and books, we would notice those same shows offered at the Morris. Those were the times that I would read the marquee when I drove past the Morris, so excited to share what new children’s shows were coming with Jasmine. The first show we saw was Sesame Street Live when she was three years old. She absolutely loved the character Elmo, and the look on her face when he came on stage was priceless. I lived for those moments when she would light up and sing along with the various characters on stage. It was then that I would look ahead at the upcoming shows and buy tickets in advance to make sure Jasmine was able to enjoy her favorite shows like Blues Clues, Dora Live, and Sesame Street every year.
When my second grandchild was born, we were experts at planning out which shows we would attend, and we found ourselves in regular attendance of the shows my grandchildren enjoyed. The impact of those shows upon my grandchildren was an extremely positive one. They had an appreciation for the arts and were able to understand the world of live performances. Theatrical performances were particularly Jasmine’s favorite hobby. She would act out shows and sing all the time. As she became school age, she got involved in theater and performed on stage both in middle and high school. Jasmine is now twenty years old and is still performing in Improv at the college level as a club activity.
Jasmine’s love of theater has broadened our entire family’s knowledge of shows and classic theatrical performances. We have seen several Broadway shows at the Morris including, Wicked, and Les Miserable. I feel that the Morris was a huge influence on introducing our entire family to world of live performance, and for that we will be forever grateful for having a theater in our city like the Morris.
Read more in the Spring/Summer Spark Magazine here.