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Children's Theatre in its 81st season

WANT TO GO?

Children's Theatre open house

WHEN: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: 1007 Bigley Ave.

INFO: www.ctoc.org CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Inside a huge old warehouse on Charleston's West Side lurks a dragon looking for warm-blooded humans.

Actually, it's Smaug's head, a prop from Children's Theatre of Charleston's recent production of "The Hobbit," hanging around the group's workshop space. You can see this impressive prop and many other theatrical elements from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday when Children's Theatre hosts an open house to share its facilities and talk about its latest endeavor, The Theatre Project.

"This open house is really for everyone," said LeeAnne Rheinlander, vice president of Children's Theatre's board of directors. "Lots has changed with our workshop space and initiatives in the past few years, and we are excited to share what's going on."

Children's Theatre of Charleston, now in its 81st season, is a nonprofit organization focused on sharing "the total theatre experience" with children and families.

The open house is a public event welcoming anyone who wants to learn more about how to become involved with the group. Board members will be present to answer questions about the organization, and adults and students may pick up applications for production work like direction, musical direction, costumes and set work.

Visitors to the open house can view scrapbooks from old plays, a slide show of performances and other aspects of the theater as well as walk through the set room and wardrobe areas. The showcase of the open house will be The Theatre Project, a new initiative for students in the eighth through 12th grade.

Teens accepted into The Theatre Project commit to volunteer with Children's Theatre during the 2013-14 season. They will be guaranteed 30 hours of community service that may be fulfilled by serving as a leader for audition workshops, working stage crew for productions, doing workshop clean ups, serving on committees or helping with events and classes.

"We ended up talking with a group of teens about what they would be interested in doing," said Rheinlander. "Their overall thing was that right now there's really not a place for them to learn all the aspects of theater.

"We want to bring in those teens. Our production staff is really excited to mentor them."

Students who love theater but may not want to be onstage will find opportunities to explore a wide range of production roles. Working on publicity techniques and poster design will help students learn how to run a show. Mentoring with a house manager will teach teens about all aspects of patron flow and building maintenance.

Teens in The Theatre Project will serve on their own working board and hold monthly meetings to decide what they want to work on within Children's Theatre and how. They will make their own recommendations to the full board of directors for how to develop the project. They will also have a voice in vision planning for the entire organization.

Applications to summer drama programs, the Governor's School for the Arts and college require evidence of experience in a field of study and community service.

"A lot of these programs want to know what experience you have already," said Rheinlander. "Were you involved with the theater? How many hours did you have? Who can speak to your commitment?

"We have ongoing relationships with our students. We're a family. We know what they can do."

Rheinlander said she hopes teens will not only be mentors, but become role models and mentors for younger children and members of the community.

 "One of our goals is to grow leaders who can sustain community theater. I think this will really train some of them and allow them to give back to the community."

Children's Theatre will select up to 25 students for The Theatre Project in May, and teens and their families are encouraged to come to the open house to ask questions and see the newly painted, expanded production space.

 "We've been here for 80 years," Rheinlander said. "Come see how far we've come, and come see where we're going to go in our next 80 seasons."

Reach Elizabeth Gaucher at Elizabeth.Gaucher@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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