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Jill Bolstridge

Giving New Meaning to Child’s Play

By Lori Cochrane, Director of Donor Relations, Office of University Communications

“Theatre by kids, for grown-ups.” That’s how Roger Williams alumna Jill Bolstridge ’04 describes the performances of the Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) – a network of more than 12 theatre troupes nationwide dedicated to teaching young performers the magic of theatre and the importance of citizenship.

After traveling the country and working to establish a number of CTC chapters in the past few years (Los Angeles, most recently), Bolstridge currently serves as artistic co-director of the New York chapter. There, she works with children ages five to 19 to explore and express topics such as war, poverty, racism, religion and human rights through colorful metaphors, acting, singing and dance.

These days, Bolstridge is rehearsing a musical she co-wrote, “Henry Box Brown,” the true story of an African-American slave who shipped himself to Philadelphia and to freedom.

Bolstridge is quick to credit her RWU advisor and mentor, Professor Emeritus William Grandgeorge, for helping her to discover her life’s passion – teaching the fundamentals of theatre to children. During her sophomore year, Grandgeorge approached Bolstridge to volunteer at the Reynolds Arts Magnet School, then located in Bristol.

The school did not have adequate funding and was at a loss to find a way to integrate theatre into its curriculum. Grandgeorge had the fantastic idea of having RWU students volunteer at the school. Over the next three years, Bolstridge – working alongside her fellow theatre classmates – supervised the entire theatre program at Reynolds. There, she found her calling.

“If it weren’t for ‘G’”, said Bolstridge, affectionately referring to Grandgeorge, “I don’t know if I would ever have discovered  how much I love working with children. I think that they are greatly underestimated and are capable of so much more than reciting nursery rhymes.”

Proud of his protégé, Grandgeorge added: “They certainly will be ahead for having had the experience of working with Jill!”