Mooresville’s own children’s theater group gets the stage set – Charlotte Observer

Lake Norman area residents don’t have to travel far to find great children’s theater.

The Mooresville Community Children’s Theatre offers stellar performances downtown on North Main Street in an auditorium at the Charles Mack Citizen Center in Mooresville.

“The word is slowly getting out,” said Gina Duckworth, president of the theatre’s board of directors. “That has been the hardest thing, getting people to know we’re up here.”

The children’s theater recently held auditions for its summer performance of “Into the Woods, Jr.,” a production based on Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s fairy-tale musical to be performed July 27-30.

Duckworth said 107 children auditioned May 18-19 for “Into the Woods, Jr.” to be directed by Melissa Ohlman-Roberge.

Duckworth, a freelance dance choreographer, is one of the nonprofit organization’s many volunteers dedicated to providing theatre, performance, education, production and viewing experiences for Mooresville and surrounding communities.

The Mooresville Community Children’s Theatre gave its first performance in 1997 as an umbrella group of the Mooresville Community Theatre. But the children’s company lasted about two years as interest and the economy waned, according to the theater’s web site.

In the fall of 2011, town officials worked with the newly-formed Mooresville Community Children’s Theatre Board of Directors to fund the organization and help bring it back to life.

The group became a registered nonprofit organization in 2013.

That same year, the group performed the musical “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Jr.”

Since its inception, the children’s theater has grown to several productions and workshops annually, Duckworth said.

The 2017 season has already featured “The Magic Treehouse – The Knight at Dawn” and the musical “School House Rock” and will put on two more musicals, including “Into the Woods, Jr.,” later this year.

In October, the children’s theater will perform “In the Heights,” with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creative musical mind also behind the hit Broadway show “Hamilton” and blockbuster Disney animated movie “Moana.”

“[In the Heights]” got voted in by the kids,” said Duckworth. “We threw out a couple of options.”

Auditions for “In the Heights” will be some time in August, Duckworth said.

The biggest challenge for the theater is funding the nonprofit’s scholarships made available through community sponsorships and donations, Duckworth said.

The 2018 Clayton Miller Memorial Scholarship, worth $1,000 this year, is awarded to a high school or college-aged student pursuing a higher education in the arts. The scholarship is named after Miller, who founded the Mooresville Community Theatre.

A second scholarship is awarded to children who can’t afford the $90 participation fee associated with being cast in a show, said Duckworth.

The town of Mooresville does sponsor the organization to an extent, Duckworth said.

For the fiscal year 2016-17, the town of Mooresville budgeted $30,000 for the children’s theater, said town spokeswoman Kim Sellers.

Self-advertising is another challenge the theater faces, Duckworth said.

“We’re sort of tucked away in the little town of Mooresville where theater is just starting to become a thing,” said Duckworth.

The theater, run entirely by volunteers, has no real office but puts on its performances at the Charles Mack Citizen Center, Duckworth said. Meetings are held at local restaurants or at a board member’s home.

The theater also puts on a “play with a purpose” and picks a cause to collection donations for as a way to give back to the community, Duckworth said.

Past productions have sponsored book drives for the Mooresville Library and donated pet food for a local animal shelter, Duckworth said.

Older kids are expected to help with costume design, makeup and set design and mentor the younger kids, Duckworth said.

Duckworth said she likes the Mooresville Community Children’s Theatre because it allows children as young as 6 years old to participate.

Board member Kim Dibenedictis said she was active in theater growing up and thinks children can play and create and become well-rounded through theater.

“I just love they can just use their imagination,” said Dibenedictis.

Kate Stevens is a freelance writer: katebethstevens@icloud.com.

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