Interview: Lynne Waggoner-Patton, Creator / Director of The Silhouettes

Originally published by Entertainment.ie, Wednesday 17th July, 2013. To read the original, please click here

THIS AUGUST, former America’s Got Talent contenders The Silhouettes will bring “The Journey Of Love” to Dublin’s Olympia Theatre. A 90 minute story of love and hope,“The Journey Of Love” has sold out in theatres across America. Lynne Waggoner-Patton, owner and director of The Silhouettes talks America’s Got Talent, The Silhouettes’ manifesto and giving something back to children in need.

Dublin in Silhouette


How did the show come about and what influences are at the root of the show?

Well, I own a performing arts studio in Denver, Colorado, which specialises in dance but also in acting. I was contacted by a company that wanted to create a show for a big, corporate event – it was an Olympic planning committee – and we wanted to be part of the opening act and Earth, Wind and Fire was the third act and Colorado Ballet was the first act and they wanted me to create something that would make the audience remember Denver. There were 2,000 world delegates in the audience and the committee wanted the audience to remember Denver for sporting events. The producers asked me if I could create something with shadows, pictures and dance. That’s pretty much how Silhouettes was created. America’s Got Talent then saw a video of our work, they asked us to audition for the show and the rest is on TV!

How would the show have evolved without America’s Got Talent and has the new media-driven age helped productions such as Silhouettes?

Absolutely. It would have been very, very difficult to reach the audience that we have without new media and social media. One of the reasons why we became so popular was because of America’s Got Talent, but also because of YouTube, which gave people all over the world the ability to see our show when the show was being performed in the Hollywood area. We had hits from Germany, China… people from places all over the world telling us how our show motivated them. We also had people from the military contacting us from overseas when we did our America show in July 2011 and they were so moved by what we were doing. That in turn helped us, inspired us and made us believe that we might have something that can really motivate people, inspire people and change lives and that’s what we keep trying to do.

The most striking aspects of the show are how you use light and how you use images. Where did those ideas come from?

Well I think that like any production, you have to start with the story. We had to determine which story we wanted to tell. We created six different shows and gave them six different themes. Once we selected a theme, I created a storyline based on that theme. The show that we’re bringing to the Olympia Theatre is actually a 90 minute full-length storyline with two characters; it’s like a Broadway show. It’s not just a piece here, a piece there. That said, we do incorporate some of the work we did on America’s Got Talent into the show.

I understand that you have already donated over $50,000 of proceeds from the show to homeless children in need. Can you give me an outline of the poverty epidemic in America?

Five years, my studio was mainly a competitive dance studio. The children began to perform just for a trophy and not for why we training to be professionals: to create exciting work, to move audiences. It was becoming a very selfish way of performing, so we sat down and said “okay, we have to find a different meaning of why we’re dancing here. Obviously, you’re still going to compete, but what are we going to do with our work and how are we going to make the Silhouettes?” So we came up with a show called ‘Kids Helping Kids’, because the children decided that they wanted to help other children who didn’t have a chance to dance or, even, have a home. So they decided to help homeless children and children who were abused and neglected. When we did our first ‘Kids Helping Kids’, we raised $15,000 with that show. Over a period of 5 years, we donated over $50,000 to homeless shelters and organisations that help homeless children. I believe that it’s one of the core aspects of why Silhouettes works, because they’re helping children and as long as we continue to do that, with all of the limelight and they fame and recognition that they are receiving, it will keep them humble and it will remind them that there are more children out there in need and, truly, need our help.

How diverse was the socio-economic background of the children?

Yes, all the kids come from all kinds of backgrounds. Some drive as far as 2 hours away from the studio and some live 5 minutes. There are all ages – 5 right through to 21 – and these are the age levels that we are bringing to the Olympia show. And everyone is from a different background and I think that’s what makes it so unique. There are children that have life – threatening diseases on our team and children who are perfectly healthy, but they all work together to make the finished product.

Denver has, of course, been rocked in recent years by devastating tragedies, such as the mass shootings in both Columbine and Aurora. How important is it to the people of Denver to build a show with such positivity?

I think everyone in the world – not just in Denver – is hungry for positivity. You turn on the news and it’s just full of horrible things that are happening all across the world. For the Denver children, it is a place to go in their minds and in our hearts where they can help people and change lives not only in Denver, but everywhere across the world. I’m hungry for it. I actually can’t listen to the news without crying because it’s so difficult to see so much pain and we want to be the healers of the pain. We want to change people’s perceptions and give people hope that they will have a future when everything in the news is saying that they will not.

There has been such a public appetite for musicals dance performances for children, particularly, in recent years, which continues to grow. Why is that do you think?

I think that dance is a universal language that everybody can understand. Seeing it on TV is wonderful, but social media and the internet has allowed us all to connect and communicate in a way that is almost clinical, where you are connecting through a machine. The love of live theatre was almost lost there, for a while. I think that people are hungry again for the physical impact of being in the room when the house lights go down and the stage lights come on and the children are creating these incredible shapes that you are mere feet away from you. You can feel their energy through the screen. Again, everybody is hungry again for this type of entertainment and feeling and living through the art of musical theatre. We do musical theatre, poetry, combined with dance, story- telling, shadow work, and so there are all types of methods are used to create the finished product, which gives the audience a broader spectrum of a form that they might be perhaps unfamiliar with. It’s like a Cirque show. A Cirque show involves you on so many different levels, especially when they do it in theatres. So you feel very much involved with the story- lines and you feel involved with the characters.

How does touring work for the performers and for their parents, in terms of schooling?

The children have to maintain a 3.0 grade point average to be on our team. Several of them still work within the public or private school systems. Whenever we have a casting call or a performance opportunity, I send out a casting call. Whoever can get out of school with their teacher’s permission and all of their assignments completed prior to the show, they will send back a “yes, I’m interested” letter. Usually, I get so many responses that I can’t take them all. For the Olympia, we’ve scheduled it for during the summer, which works one of two ways: first, we like to go into school systems and meet the children and do small performances when we’re in a place. I actually manage the company myself so that I can control and maintain where we go and when we travel and I will commit the children to a run that is longer than three weeks. We have been offered many 6 month runs and year long runs, which I couldn’t commit to; these children need to be children. So the Olympia was perfect, because Brian White contacted me and said “We’d like to do a three week run” and I said “Great! and if it’s in the summer, even greater!” So the children aren’t going to miss any school and we do take the school system very seriously and we have tutors that travel with us. Most of the parents that chaperone are teachers themselves in elementary and high school level, so we actually have sessions when we’re on sight for performances.

One of the oldest clichés in show business is “never work with children or animals”. How has the experience been for you and how have you kept the children’s feet on the ground following the fame and success from America’s Got Talent?

We kept the children very isolated on the set. So they didn’t really experience all of the fervor that was happening outside of the bubble and we did that to keep them humble. This is just a short period of our time in our lives. The cast changes constantly, because the kids grow up, they go to college… it’s an ever-changing cast. I think that with the children it’s probably easier than with older performers: they are more willing to try new things, they are hard-working, we have a level of respect that is acceptable with the Silhouettes: they have to meet that level of respect. We have given the parents classes in which we train them how to be a Silhouette chaperone. We don’t go into a restaurant and be demanding or rude – we want to spread the love. That’s from the very moment we step into the arena or even on our flights. We want to teach the children that we need to spread the love. Adults have their own idea of how they should be performing or what they would like out of their lives, but with these children we can shape and mould them into a really positive community that makes a difference in every show that we do.

Are there any other people in show business whom you admire for how they championed causes?

I think that this exposure has given us the opportunity to meet more of those people. It’s amazing the world that’s out there. For example, here in Dublin meeting people who are helping other people and working towards making the world a better place. We wouldn’t have met these people had we not the exposure on America’s Got Talent. We did get the opportunity to perform with LeAnn Rimes and she was the perfect match, because she has a foundation that helps homeless people. So when she asked if she could be the celebrity duet with us on the show, I said “Absolutely, this is perfect!”, because she has the same ambition. She uses all of her prestige and all of her contacts to help other people and I think anyone who does that – anyone who knows how fortunate they are and gives something back – is just great.

The Silhouettes “The Journey Of Love” runs in The Olympia Theatre from 2nd – 18th August at 7.30pm. Tickets on sale now from €19.50. For more information and to book tickets go to www.olympia.ie

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