Children's show goes on

Donations save Civic Theatre West's youth program for at least a month
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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The show must go on. That’s the sentiment expressed by many community members, parents, children and theatergoers in response to the decision by Civic Theatre West to cease operations Nov. 10 due to $500,000 of debt. Only a few days following the nonprofit theater company’s closure, Sutter Street Theatre in historic Folsom offered to allow Civic Theater West to perform its upcoming Christmas production, “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings” at the nearby theater (see sidebar below). The Roseville organization’s board of directors will host a town hall meeting and rally Friday to unveil a plan to garner funding to reopen the theater. And, thanks to the generosity of Granite Bay parents Renee and Steve Nash, the children’s theater workshops formerly offered through Civic Theatre West will continue for at least a month. Some may also know Renee Nash as president of the Eureka Schools Foundation. These parents are covering the cost of renting Roseville Theater and paying for utilities for one month — estimated to be up to $4,000 — so the children’s production, “A Furrytale Christmas” can continue as scheduled. “There are times when a community must decide what is important to them and take action,” Renee Nash told the Press Tribune. During Wednesday’s rehearsal, parents and children gathered in the theater’s auditorium as Michelle Raskey, program director of Civic Theatre West, made announcements. “Thank you so much,” Raskey said. “Your support has been overwhelming. I’m pretty much cried out. We’re here for your kids. We love them. We love what we do and we want to keep this going.” She said out of 180 children in the workshop, only two have dropped out since the closure of Civic Theatre West. The adults who run the program are now volunteering their time, although musical director Jennifer Vaughn said most of the staff hadn’t been paid since summer. Although the show times for “A Furrytale Christmas” won’t change, the performances will be free because the organization no longer has an operational ticket system or box office staff. Volunteers will accept donations during the four shows in December. Raskey asked parents to pick up the slack, assisting as janitors, ushers, concession stand workers, prop builders and more. In a joking voice, she requested that parents supply “two-ply” toilet paper and paper towels for the theater’s bathrooms. But the need for these items is no joke. “We are our own janitors and our own paper suppliers,” she said. Soon the children began rehearsal with warm ups and voice exercises. They formed a circle and stretched their arms high above their heads. They made a lion’s face, then a face as if they’d just tasted a sour lemon. The kids practiced saying “unique New York” and then “New York is unique.” Then they tried to repeat the phrase really fast. Milan French was one of the actresses on the stage Wednesday. The 10-year-old is currently in her fourth year participating in the children’s workshops, where she learns singing, dancing and acting. Her mom, Diana French, said they found out about Civic Theatre West’s closure the day after it was announced. She said her daughter cried when she heard the news. “I thought it was tragic,” French said. “It’s one of the few things we have left in the arts for our children. … Everyone wants to pitch in and make it work.” Raskey said parents and theater volunteers are determined to offer the workshops as long as possible. Raskey joined Civic Theatre West, formerly Magic Circle Theatre, in 1989. Five years later, she became director of education and outreach. Upon hearing of the board’s decision to close the organization’s doors, she sent a message informing parents. “When I sent the e-mail on Thursday to let everyone know, I was sick to my stomach,” she said. Immediately, parents came out of the woodwork, offering support to save the children’s programs, which serve kids 4 to 19 years old. The youth workshop, for kids ages 8 to 15, is the group putting on “A Furrytale Christmas” with the help of participants from the “Little Ones” workshop, ages 4 to 7. Each show is originally written for the cast, and there are no lead roles so everyone feels like a star. “In our hearts, this is about watching the kids grow,” Raskey said. “It’s not necessarily about the show they do. It’s about growing wonderful little people.” As children go through the workshops, she said, they become more confident and their demeanors change. “Every time I see that, there’s no greater feeling,” she said. “There’s something magical about theater.” Sena Christian can be reached at ---------- What: “A Furrytale Christmas” When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, Friday, Dec. 10, Thursday, Dec. 16 and Friday, Dec. 17 Where: Roseville Theater, 241, Vernon St. in Roseville Cost: Free. Open seating. Tickets sold at the door. ---------- Civic Theatre West’s upcoming Christmas production, “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings,” will be performed at Sutter Street Theatre in historic Folsom for a special, limited run. The show opens Thanksgiving weekend and features Christmas standards, dancing and comedy. The musical begins when a quartet or male singers called the Plaids return from the afterlife. They’re not quite sure why they’ve returned, but a phone call from the heavenly Rosemary Clooney lets them know that they’re needed to put a little harmony into a discordant world. What: “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings” When: 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays from Nov. 27 through Dec. 16, with no performance Friday, Dec. 3 Where: Sutter Street Theatre, 717 Sutter St. in Folsom Cost: Tickets range from $15 to $23. Group rates are available Info: For tickets, call (916) 353-1001 ---------- For coverage of Friday’s town hall meeting and rally to save Civic Theatre West, see the Wednesday, Nov. 24 issue of the Press Tribune or visit