Stages of LIfe

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One day, your cute, lovable child will become a teenager and begin asking you to drop them off a block away from the movie theater, but there may be a way to stay better connected. Several Columbia families have beaten the odds and are spending more quality time with their children by participating together in community theater.

Community theater provides a way for families to get into the act together. In some families, the kids act while the parents help behind the scenes with choreography or production. In others, mother and father are actually acting on stage alongside their children. Regardless of the role the parents play, everyone involved agrees that undertaking theater as a family has numerous benefits.

One such family is the Scotts. Michael Scott, a child psychiatrist and president of Maplewood Barn Theater, knows firsthand what it’s like to perform not only with his wife Alana, but also with his children Drew, Mason and Sloane.

“Last year, all five of us were onstage together performing in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and it was just terrific!” he says. “We had so much fun interacting with each other, whether it was rehearsing, performing, or just sweating and goofing off backstage!”

The Walkers are another family heavily involved with community theater. Tammy Walker teaches choreography at Theater Reaching Young People and Schools, better knows as TRYPS, one of Columbia’s beloved children’s theaters. Her husband, Brett, has acted alongside their son Cole and daughter Leslie.

“We all really dig it!” she says. “They like having us nearby and we love doing things as a family. It really keeps us close.”

TRYPS gives many young stars their first taste of performing. The group offers classes in musical theater and acting, as well as acting workshops and auditions for popular stage plays. TRYPS sees many siblings performing together, and also has its fair share of parents that join in on the fun. “A lot of times, the children have more experience and can learn their lines faster than the adults,” says Jill Womack, founder and executive artistic director of TRYPS. “It’s really cool to get to see the kids show their parents the ropes. To see that role-reversal is really adorable.”

The first step in getting involved with a community play is to audition. Theaters around Columbia are always on the lookout for talented individuals who aren’t afraid to perform in front of an audience. Try the Columbia Entertainment Company, where the crew believes the auditioning process should be a memorable and exciting experience. CEC welcomes anyone to audition, experienced or not.

Womack and her TRYPS staff believe “the best auditions are the ones where the person really researches their part,” she advises. “Learn as much as you can about the character and the play itself, come to our workshops and be fearless!” And although it’s hard not to be disappointed, Womack adds that children shouldn’t be too upset if they don’t get the part they wanted; so much of casting for children’s plays has to do with height and whether or not they “look the part,” she says. “Do your best and let the chips fall where they may.”

Monica Senecal, a popular radio personality at KPLA, has also figured out a way to get her family onstage. Before she married her husband, they made a deal that she would try golf and he would perform in a play. This past summer, her husband Russ Palmer made his stage debut in Maplewood’s adaptation of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Senecal’s 3-year-old son Gabriel is also a budding star who has performed with TRYPS.

“Acting in plays really makes kids and adults more confident and able to communicate their thoughts and ideas more clearly,” Senecal says. “My husband was so shy! Everyone was amazed at how his confidence went through the roof! It just feels great for all of us to share this creative outlet together.”

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