Known for Creativity

Kathy Dean Alumni

University of Mobile alumni are known for finding creative ways to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bradford H. Forehand is using his musical theatre degree and a successful career in children’s theatre to take children ages 4 to 6 on a virtual adventure using theatre.

Bradford, a 2009 UM graduate, is director of education at Red Mountain Theatre Company in Birmingham, Alabama. RMTC is a non-profit theatre that fosters artists, inspires youth and engages audiences through quality theatre and education programming.

That’s exactly what Bradford is doing at 11:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through “Play Making Live with Bradford” on Red Mountain Theatre Company’s Facebook Live and YouTube.

A recent episode opens with Bradford reading a story, then leading children on an imaginary adventure using elements of the story. In this episode, he helped children pretend to be an elephant playing chess, racing a tortoise, sitting quietly with a penguin and riding a bus.

He took a few moments to talk about what he does, why he does it, and how his UM experience influenced his own life so he can impact others.

1. How did the idea of Play Making Live with Bradford come about, and what do you hope to accomplish through it?

Red Mountain Theatre Company is always looking to deepen our engagement with families and the arts. As schools closed and our community moved to working from home, we knew that meant a big change for parents and young people alike. We saw a specific need with pre-school aged children who, unlike their older counterparts who are better able to find ways to engage themselves, needed something to do.  Many of the activities that we do in our Play Making camps, such as reading and acting out a story or singing silly songs, could easily translate from in-person to virtual, so we decided to start there.  Our goal was to, as our mission states, engage our community and meet them where they were – which in this case is right in their own homes.  We hope that these videos give young people a chance to express their creativity and have fun while they are staying home.  Plus, because they are on YouTube, we hope that families can experience these adventures over and over again.

2. How has your University of Mobile experience influenced what you do today, both professionally and personally?

Because of the small size of the department, I got to do everything – build sets, pull costumes, choreograph, direct – even wait tables (it was a dinner theatre, after all). The level of responsibility I got to experience at UM was amazing. That experience was invaluable, especially the choreographing and directing. I think it really set me up to succeed in what I’m doing now, where those are major aspects of my job.

It also, somewhat coincidentally, prepared me for serving in my local church. With my church music classes, I learned a lot about public reading of scripture, and that is a way that I can serve here in Birmingham.

In addition to the artistic preparation, my time at UM influenced who I am. I learned a lot about myself, my faith, what I wanted and what I felt the Lord wanted for my life. My faith became my own – not my parents or my friends or my culture, but mine. My path changed a few times (as did my major), and continued to change after I left, but I knew that I had professors I could call upon, even after graduation. I knew I had friends who I could work along side, and I still talk with those people now, over 10 years later.

3. What other experiences have you had after graduating from UM that led you to Red Mountain Theatre Company?

After I graduated from UM, I wanted to pursue the business side of the arts. I got an internship with the managing director of Lexington Children’s Theatre. This phenomenal company was where I saw my love of young people and high quality come together – that children’s theatre didn’t have to be primary colors and bad acting. It became my artistic home. My mentors there pointed me to grad school. I completed a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre for Youth at Arizona State University. During my time in Tempe, I also worked as a freelance actor, director and teaching artist, mostly for Childsplay. I also had the opportunity to work for The Coterie Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri. Upon graduation in 2014, I decided to move back home and applied for a teaching artist position at RMTC. One thing led to another and I was hired full time as the education manager. As our department grew, I was promoted to director of education in 2015; we’re still growing and hoping to offer more and more programs to the people of Birmingham in the coming years!

4. Do you have a favorite memory of your time at UM that you’d like to share?

Oh so many! Most are centered around the friends I made and the shows we did at UM. I’ll never forget – we were doing “Arsenic and Old Lace.” I was cast as Mortimer, and there’s a particularly tricky scene midway through the first act where Mortimer has to scare a little old man so that he doesn’t drink the poison, and then Mortimer has to shoe him away from the house. Well, one night, they poured a little too much juice in the cup, and I gave a particularly frightful scream and the juice went EVERYWHERE. So as I was chasing the other actor off stage, I slipped and fell flat on my face. It was a very Donald O’Conner slapstick sort of moment. The show must go on, so I popped back up and continued with the scene. Fortunately, I wasn’t really hurt, and I was about to have about 15 minutes off stage. When I got off stage, the crew told me that during the fall I had ripped the back of my pants. I had no idea and couldn’t believe it. Fortunately, we had the time to get them fixed before I had to go back on stage, and all went well the rest of the show.  Definitely a moment I’ll never forget.

5. As a UM graduate, what is your advice to students who will be graduating from UM in a few weeks?

I say to all my students that it’s about the next step. Your path may change – the Lord may put something in front of you that you never expected, and that’s okay. Your decision to take a job or pursue more education or whatever doesn’t have to be final. It’s just the next step. Trust that all will work out, and in some way or another, it does. Maybe not as we had planned (hard for us Type A planners), but it does. As one of my grad school professors always said, “Ski the slope, not the mountain.”

6. Anything else you’d like to add?

One more piece of advice. As you move into your next step, find your way to jump in and meet people. My mother always says that life is who you know. It’s different for everyone, but it’s a valuable skill. So find your way to make connections.


Featured Image: Photo courtesy Red Mountain Theatre Company

About the Author

Kathy Dean

Kathy Dean is associate vice president for university communications and has helped tell the University of Mobile story since 1993. She is an award-winning public relations professional and former journalist. Her husband and daughter are UM graduates. She loves playing in the yard – planting flowers, picking blueberries, pulling weeds and petting her two mini-schnauzers.