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Develop Character at the Plano Children's Theatre

By Elisha Neubauer

In 1991, Sara Akers and three associates set out with one goal in mind: to bring the arts to the youth of Plano. While this may sound simple enough in 2015, in the early 90s, limited options were available for children who were not of the athletic persuasion. Akers and her team were also interested in shattering casting stereotypes - assigning roles by performance history and talent, not based on creed, race, height, weight, or ethnicity ? thus allowing more children to participate in the program.

The first class began in the spring of 1992. Although the program was new, the Plano Children's Theatre had a full classroom on the first go-around. ? fifty students! By the time the summer class came, the program had an astounding 175 children, ages 4-18, enrolled. Within a few years, they had outgrown their rental facilities. The City of McKinney provided funding for their very own McKinney Youth Theatre, the Plano rehearsal space underwent renovations, and the group began offering programs in nearby Frisco as well.

The program's amazing start only fueled the fire - making the Plano Children's Theatre strive harder to provide a safe, nurturing environment for children to grow within the arts. "While many youth activities are sports-related, Plano Children's Theatre provides a welcoming and accepting family atmosphere and an opportunity for kids to identify and explore new and different talents," explains Teresa Love, Director of Marketing for Plano Children's Theatre. "One of our parents said, 'This kiddo who has struggled to find connections with others [and] could never find an activity that he really enjoyed, [who] struggled with loneliness and not fitting in, has found a home!'"

The theatre program hopes to instill more than just the love of theatre in its young actors. "We hope that our students will develop a strong sense of confidence and take away a feeling of accomplishment," states Love. "It is our hope that they leave here with optimism for their future and a 'theatre family' that includes friends that last a lifetime." She goes on to list some of the lessons children can learn from participating in theatre, including "responsibility, public speaking, problem solving, teamwork, respect, sociability, and confidence."

This year marked a significant moment for the Plano Children's Theatre. "Xanadu featured a large number of our older students, many of whom graduated this year," says Love. "It was bittersweet to see students who have been with us for many years take their final bow on our stage."

While graduation may have been bittersweet, the joy of working with children is that there are always fresh faces, excited for the chance to perform with a real theatre company. "Just recently, we performed Mary Poppins at the Plano Courtyard Theatre for a nearly sold-out run," Love says. "It was wonderful to see our students get the opportunity to perform for large audiences on the 'big stage' in historic downtown Plano."

Plano Children's Theatre offers children the option to learn the world of performing arts from industry professionals right in their own backyard. With three locations - Plano, McKinney, and Frisco - there are more opportunities than ever for local youth to plunge themselves headfirst into the arts.

As Sara says, "We don't just teach acting, we develop characters!"

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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