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Curtain call: The Colony's first children's theater celebrates fourth anniversary, brings hot topic to center stage
When The Colony Playhouse opened in January 2009, its founders had no idea it would become one of the leading children's theaters in the area - but it's become just that.
This winter, the playhouse is taking on a hot topic with the production of "The Secret Life of Girls," which is written by area playwright Linda Dougherty and opens Feb. 8.
The play is based on interviews with young women regarding bullying and highlights the impact of cyberbullying - the facilitation of mean-spirited behaviors through the use of cell phones, text and instant messaging, email and chat rooms, said Martin Mussey, the playhouse's artistic director.
Mussey hopes that through the portrayal of the reality of the characters' lives will spark a conversation in homes, schools and the community, providing the opportunity to reveal the secrets and address the complexities which dominate the lives of many young women.
"The hope is that young people will connect on some level with the material and begin those conversations amongst themselves. This is not something they have to deal with alone," he said. "The show reveals that it is not just a girls' issue but often adults don't know what to do either. Plans are in the works to host at least one, if not two, post show facilitated discussions on the topic to help kick start the dialogue."
This topic is not new to TCP as the theater produced an event last year called Theater Slam in conjunction with The Colony Public Library, Mussey said. Last March the Teen Writers Club wrote original short scripts on the topic of bullying and these scripts were used as the source material for the Theater Slam event.
The concept is to produce live theater in a one-day workshop where children audition, are cast, rehearse and put on a show at the end of the day. It was so well received, he said, that there are plans to produce its second event on March 2. The Teen Writers Club is in the process of deciding the subject matter for the next event.
The theater prides itself on offering a place where families can participate in a production, be it onstage, backstage or in the audience. The goal is to produce professional, quality productions for children and by children, Mussey said.
"When a child experiences live theater and sees someone their own age on stage it makes a connection that maybe no other medium can," he said. "The hope is that they can maybe see themselves on that stage too one day. We truly believe that the joy of live theater is learned one child at a time. Since our inaugural production in 2009 of 'The Three Little Pigs Out West' we have seen local kids grow right before our eyes from middle school to Seniors in High School. It has been a source of great pride for the TCP board."
The playhouse produces a three-show season with actors ranging from 6 to 17 years old. Traditionally, the playhouse produces one musical and two straight plays each year.
"Our directors have cast kids who have never been on stage before alongside seasoned performers and the results continually amaze our audiences and us," Mussey said. "Our success comes from the philosophy that once opening night comes the kids own the stage and the show on their own, no prompting from the wings, as they have learned what it takes to put on a show."
As a young organization without a theater home yet, Mussey said he wants to acknowledge the support of the Parks and Recreation Department, Cultural Arts Board, and city of the Colony, because without their support of various grants and assistance, the playhouse would not be in existence today. Its goal and dream is to possibly convert an existing space in The Colony into a new home for The Colony Playhouse.
For information about the playhouse, visit thecolonyplayhouse.org.
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