More than two decades into its existence, Social Circle Theater’s doors remain open to a wide variety of age groups, interests and abilities as it continues to serve as a quiet but invaluable small-town pillar.
by Michelle Floyd
When Pam Hull saw her 11-year-old daughter express an interest in theater, she knew she had to jump on the opportunity to stoke the fire.
“We had gone to a couple of plays, and she was really showing interest in musical theater,” Hull said. “She wasn’t very interested in sports. In general, I think [theater] is a good exercise in teamwork and working together.”
A Covington resident at the time, Hull asked around and discovered one of her friends had a child who had aged out of the Social Circle Theater programs. The parent spoke highly of the experience, so Hull decided to contact the theater to flesh out more details.
“I said we would give it a try, and she immediately loved it,” said Hull, whose daughter Olivia, now 16, has remained involved with the Social Circle Theater ever since. Olivia has performed in a number of plays, including “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast” and even the locally created “The Stories from the Well” about legends of Social Circle.
“My whole life, I’ve always been very involved in movies and liked acting,” said Olivia, a homeschool student in Good Hope. “I don’t know why. I just always have.”
After portraying one of the Royal Cardsmen in “Alice in Wonderland” and a munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz,” Olivia hopes to enjoy many more performances in the not-too-distant future. She has now joined Well Diggers, a cast made up of more experienced and generally older students at Social Circle Theater.
“I would like to stay [at the theater] as long as possible,” Olivia said, pointing out that some fellow cast members have been involved for more than a decade, “and once I age out, I would love to come back to be an assistant director or a volunteer.”
Well Diggers also offers its members the opportunity to mentor the younger theater students—Rising Stars—and venture into the community to perform at special events and in nursing homes.
“They’re really community-focused,” Pam said. “It’s not just about making money.”
The programs at Social Circle Theater generally start for kids between the ages of 4 and 7 and can last until college. Performers typically spend a few hours each week for several months preparing for a play that will be open to family, friends and the general public. They can sing, dance or act, or they can assist with more of the backstage production work.
“They’re really community-focused. It’s not just about making money.”Pam Hull
“We are very family value-oriented and community-minded,” theater manager Tera Duval Barton said. “We hope they leave [the program] with a sense of value and a sense of accomplishment.”
Social Circle Theater was established by Bob and Mabel Standridge in 2000. Its participants represent a mix of public school, private school and homeschool students. In addition to catering to residents in Social Circle and greater Walton County, the theater also draws families from Newton, Rockdale, Morgan, Gwinnett and Oconee counties.
“I like knowing that if I have a bad day at school or something and then go to theater, I can just be someone else there,” said Paul Knowles, a 13-year-old homeschool student. He became involved with Social Circle Theater after joining his 11-year-old sister Abby in performances at Mansfield Baptist Church. Abby, who hopes to appear in a “Frozen” play at some point, admits she enjoys making new friends at the theater while having her brother nearby for support. Paul and Abby’s mother, Elizabeth, appreciates the affordability of the program as a mother of three children, two of whom are involved there.
“It gives them something new to do,” she said. “They get a chance to get out of the house and be with new people.”
Social Circle Theater also features SCT Dance for all ages and skill levels, along with a Special Hearts program for special-needs students, providing activities and a respite for those families. Rachel Harris enrolled her daughter Kylie, now 24, in Special Hearts to provide her with access to more social connections.
“Special Hearts offers true acceptance and quality activities for individuals of all abilities. Their programs are varied to appeal to all interests, so Kylie is never bored,” Rachel said. “The organizers and volunteers are incredible and true friends to Kylie. We are thankful for the directors at Social Circle Theater and their commitment to serve and offer programming to all of the community.”
Kylie finds joy in many of the activities, including bingo, painting, holiday parties, cooking and sewing with life skills classes and theater productions.
“I like spending time with other people and doing all different activities,” she said. “Everyone is really nice, and the activities are a lot of fun.”
Social Circle Theater welcomes donations. Many of its spring and summer programs were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Opportunities exist to sponsor individual students, along with tiered sponsorship throughout each season.
“We’re always taking donations,” said Social Circle Theater Creative Director Rachel Wells. “It would help us accommodate more students and plan for more events in the future.”
For more information on Social Circle Theater, visit SocialCircleTheater.com, call 770-464-2269 or find them on Facebook and Instagram.