Parents often rebuke their children for acting up, but that’s exactly what several Waco theater programs and organizations want to see — at least on their stages.
In addition to theater programs offered in Waco-area school districts and local churches, some community theater organizations have a focus on youth, providing training on various levels, performance opportunities and productions.
May is a transition between school-year and summer schedules, a time when some of those programs shift gears to take advantage of students’ school vacations and fewer athletic and extracurricular conflicts.
Here’s a brief overview of some of the leading players in Waco children’s theater and what they do.
Waco Children’s Theatre
The oldest program specifically aimed at young people, the Waco Children’s Theatre formally began with its incorporation in 1992 and later independence from the Waco Civic Theatre. Founder and director Linda Haskett, active in Waco community theater in the 1970s and ’80s, felt a need to offer theater training and experience for area youth beyond what was needed for a specific production.
“We wanted something that could help build character and self-esteem as well as pre-professional training,” she said. “We wanted something offered for all children . . . where they could learn the vocabulary of the theater.”
Over the years, Haskett, local theater and music professionals and supporters have led workshops and classes for scores of Waco school-age children. The WCT’s busiest times occur in early summer, when it holds a multi-week summer camp for young children with performances in late June and a public production by the theater’s older kids in early July.
Past youth-cast musicals have included “Grease,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “101 Dalmatians,” “Annie” and “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
The children’s theater also has offered classes during the year when enrollment and venue availability allowed, with fall classes and rehearsals leading to a holiday show.
The WCT has had no permanent home over the years, operating at such places as the Waco Civic Theatre, Vanguard School, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and the Lee Lockwood Museum and Library. Haskett, however, measures its success in students who’ve gone on to performing and stage careers, or who return as adults to help train a new generation in theater.
This summer’s WCT offerings will have a ’50s flavor with the program’s older, more experienced kids staging the musical “All Shook Up” July 1-3 at the Lee Lockwood Library and Museum. Elementary school-age chlidren will have a summer day camp June 8-28 with performances of “The Nifty ’50s: Soda Shoppes and Doo-Wops” on June 26-28. For registration information, call 776-0707.
WCT supporters presently are involved in an online “Make More Happen” campaign (www.safeco.com/make-more-happen) through Monday to win $500 to $10,500 for the theater from Safeco Insurance. Online: http://wacochildrenstheatre.com
Waco Civic Theatre
Waco’s community theater includes that community’s young people as part of its mission, and there’s a twofold approach to do so, executive director Eric Shephard said.
“We want to serve more than adults. We provide programming and we provide opportunities to perform,” he said.
The programming comes in family- and youth-oriented stage plays and musicals that regularly dot the theater’s regular season, such as “Shrek the Musical,” which recently closed the 2014-15 season. Next year’s season offers family-targeted musicals “The Addams Family” and “Sister Act.”
The theater traditionally has staged a family-friendly holiday show each Christmas season.
Those productions feature casts mixing adult and youth actors, but the theater also
presents productions with children and youth as the main cast and that’s important, Shephard said. “We prefer to do plays with peers of the children performing,” he said.
One of those children’s productions, “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.,” runs May 28-31, and last year the WCT presented “Schoolhouse Rock, Jr.”
Complementing the onstage experience that such productions offer are workshops that the WCT has offered. This spring, the theater had a young filmmakers’ workshop in video production, and age-appropriate workshops accompanied this month’s production of “Little Mermaid.”
This July, the WCT will hold an acting workshop for teens with a play adapted from the young adult novel “The Giver.” Summer is also the time for the nationally touring Missoula Children’s Theatre Workshop, whose leaders lead a one-week kids’ workshop in theater skills capped by a public performance. This year’s workshop takes place Aug. 3-8 with a production of “Cinderella” at its end.
The WCT also has made an effort to integrate at least one presentation per year with curriculum and studies in local schools. Last year, the theater presented “To Kill a Mockingbird,” with “The Great Gatsby” the book adaptation on the books next year.
There’s also an educational/historical line to “A Song for Coretta,” about Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., which the WCT will present in Waco’s Jubilee Theatre.
That cross-sharing is an example of theaters and organizations working together to create more, Shephard said, and such coordination can help expand offerings for Waco youth. The WCT moved its Missoula Children’s Theatre date a week earlier in August to avoid bumping into the start of classes in some school districts, and it scheduled “Little Mermaid” in late May to miminize overlap with summer programs, the WCT director noted.
There’s a lot of theater opportunities for Waco-area youth, yet room for growth, he said. “I think Waco can support even more,” he added. For program information, call 776-1591. Online: http://www.wacocivictheatre.org
Mission Waco’s use of the arts to help community renovation and development employs the Jubilee Theatre, a former adult movie house converted to theatrical and musical use.
In addition to stage plays like “Fences,” “We Ain’t the Huxtables,” “The Piano Lesson” and “Godspell,” the Jubilee provides space for an after-school theater arts program and a summer acting camp for kids ages 6 to 18. This year’s camp, led by Waco native and former Jubilee director Stevie Walker-Webb, takes place June 8-13. Jubilee director Khira Hailey leads both the after-school program, which staged “Alice in Wonderland” earlier this year, and last year’s summer camp.
Having a theater arts option for local young people provides a way to nurture budding creativity and artistic skills as well as develop public speaking abilities and build self-confidence, she said. If it takes a village to raise a child, theater can be part of that village, she added.
Like the Waco Civic Theatre’s Shephard, Hailey thinks there is room for more kids’ theater. “I think Waco is big enough for everybody,” she said. For program and camp information, call 753-4900. Online: http://www.jubileetheatre-waco.org
Christian Youth Theatre Waco
The newest player on the Waco youth stage is Christian Youth Theatre Waco, part of a national Christian Youth Theatre organization with programs in cities across the United States.
The Waco chapter opened last October after two years of fundraising and staged two kid-casted productions this spring, “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and “Charlotte’s Web,” said CYT Waco coordinator and managing director Joy Howard.
Approximately 70 school-age students have been involved, using space at Cogsdill Memorial United Methodist Church and Central Texas Presbyterian Church for classes and rehearsals, and Waco Civic Theatre and the Lee Lockwood Library and Museum for performances.
Despite its name, the CYT doesn’t limit its material to Christian-themed plays nor students interested in participating and learning theater, Howard said. “We’re interested in developing character in kids, promoting excellence and having classes and schedules that are orderly,” she said. “We pray for our kids and their shows . . . and (want) directors of our shows being free to express our faith and integrate it in what they do.”
CYT Waco offers classes throughout the school year and a summer camp. For information, call 254- 340-0084. Online: http://www.cytwaco.org
For 27 years, Kids Kompany has offered weeklong summer day camps for school-age kids in the Waco area. Founder and director Connie McCracken said the intent is to provide basics in acting, set and costume creation that have broader impact in developing communication skills, self-confidence and personal development. This year’s Kids Kompany will have two sessions for children ages 7 to 12 and will be held June 8-12 and June 15-19, with a full performance on the camps’ final day. For information, call 254-715-6048 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Online: http://www.hoorayforfamily.com/advertiser_index_details.php%3FKids-Kompany-Theater-219