The Theater Bug Performs for East Nashville

So many of East Nashville’s endeavors enjoy a symbiotic relationship with the community, giving neighbors a chance to grow and explore while benefiting from their creativity and enthusiasm. The Theater Bug, a children’s theater company located in the back building of New Life Baptist Church, is one such endeavor, providing the neighborhood’s youngest residents with training, an opportunity to perform, and much more.
     The Theater Bug offers free and low-cost programming to students who require it. In an effort to grow in that capacity, the company will be hosting a fundraiser, The Bug Ball, on April 6 at The Pavilion East.
     “Our hope with The Bug Ball is to reach some new supporters who may not know much about what we do and have some capacity for giving to a program like ours,” says Cori Anne Laemmel, the theater’s artistic director. “We want to do what we do for a long time and to have the ability to keep growing.”
     The event will also be a celebration of the community that has proved to be so well-suited for the company. “East Nashville is the perfect blend of family, art, and quirkiness at its core, and that lines up perfectly with how I wanted The Bug to feel,” Laemmel says. “I think that so many of the kids in this community have been raised around art and a love of it has been cultivated in their homes. … I wanted to provide an opportunity that was close to home for kids to not only explore the arts, but to help them find other artists.”
     Finding East Nashville as the perfect home for her theater six years ago, Laemmel has been dedicated to serving the community, as well as its budding stars. “At least once a year, The Theater Bug takes on what some call an ‘issue- based show,’ ” she explains. “During these shows, we partner with another organization that works with kids, but in a different way than we do. These organizations help us tell the stories of their kids from the beginning of the scriptwriting process, through rehearsals, and even into the actual production.”
     Over the years, The Theater Bug has partnered with The Special Education Advocacy Center, a group supporting educational rights for children with disabilities; Miriam’s Promise, a local child-placing agency; and The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network; among others. In conjunction with Gilda’s Club Nashville, a cancer support group, the company produced The Barefoot Children in the City of Ward, a play about children with terminal illness.
     “We consider each of these organizations to be dear friends now and have been able to spread their message using our small but mighty platform,” Laemmel says. “Our mission is about confidence, community, encouragement, and how beautiful it is to be educated in the lives of our peers.”
     Helping spread awareness for these organizations and giving children the chance to engage with them makes The Theater Bug especially important in East Nashville. But in a broader sense, their mission is to instill participants with an arts education that will benefit them in any walk of life, anywhere.
     “When you are part of a cast, you are needed to make the machine go,” Laemmel explains. “You are celebrated. Our group is all ages and backgrounds, and they are pulling together to create. You are teaming up to make something that didn’t exist before and giving it as a gift back to the community. You win every time.”