“But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?” It’s your kid, and they’re in character. Magic carpets, an orphan with a penchant for causing trouble, pirates and swashbuckling sword fights, damsels in distress, and some dames that can take care of themselves. They all sound like adventures from a great movie or book, but these are real life adventures any kid can take part in at Plano Children’s Theatre.
PCT has been in the business of “developing characters” (as their motto states) since Sara Eggleston Akers started the theatre in 1991. Sara got her start working with kids during a church production, when the kids loved it so much they wanted to continue working with her.
And now 24 years later, North Texas Performing Arts boasts five companies where your young Olivier or Streisand can study. Plano Children’s Theatre, Plano Youth Theatre, McKinney Children’s Theatre, Frisco Children’s Theatre and Funhouse Theatre and Film all offer ways for youngsters ages 5 through 18 to get bit by the acting bug.
At PCT, young thespians can take classes on everything from musical theatre, acting, dance, voice and movement to comedy, drama, physical acting, and straight play-acting. PCT also offers summer, spring break and winter break day camps where kids not only learn acting but also the mechanics of what it takes to put on a production, no matter the size or scope.
The classes and camps all lead up to one thing: an audition for a major production. Every major production is different and exciting and students can’t wait to participate. Just as every kid has a part right for them, each production has a director that is the perfect fit. All the directors at PCT are degreed with a Bachelor of Arts in Musical Theatre, and a few even have advanced degrees in specific areas of dramatic expertise. The unique qualifications that each director brings to PCT help determine the shows that are scheduled.
One such example is Andy Baldwin, the recently appointed Managing Director at Plano Children’s Theatre. Andy‘s got an impressive resume, having studied at the Circle in the Square Conservatory in NYC. He also worked for Casa Mañana, the Southwest’s largest nonprofit performing arts organization, as a resident actor and assistant to the Director of Education for eight years. Andy has performed with every major theatre in the DFW area.
The neat thing about PCT is that kids at any skill level can find guidance and a class that is right for them. PCT’s students are a diverse mix. Some are true thespians, others are there for confidence-boosting help with voice or acting, and some just find it fun to dress up and be someone else on occasion.
16-year-old Ryan Marsh says, “The thing I love most about PCT is how easy it is to make new friends that will last for years. I can start a rehearsal process for a show in which I know no one, and by the end of the show I have a new friend.”
Ryan’s 11-year-old sister Ria likes putting herself in another’s shoes. “I have been a princess, an orphan, an elf, and a crab, and have lived in the Middle East, in Russia, in London, and under the sea!”
Students definitely love PCT, but they aren’t the only ones. Autumn Melcer, mom to PCT students Lillian and Alina, says, “I have watched my daughters grow both off and on stage because of their experiences at PCT. They have learned to take risks, be brave and built so much character.”
Elly Marsh, mom to Ryan and Ria, adds, “PCT is a special place that goes beyond theatre to embrace family and community. While children are on stage, family and friends are supporting from offstage, from costumes to tickets to set builds.”
Are you wondering what these kids go on to do after participating in Plano Children’s Theatre? The sky’s the limit. Some go on to television, like alum Lizzy Greene who currently stars on Nickelodeon’s “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn,” and some have even hit “The Great White Way.” That’s right, Broadway, baby. Alum Hunter Herdlicka spent two years on Broadway starring as Henrik in the Tony award winning revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.” And lastly, former students often come back home to PCT. Becca Johnson-Spinos is one such example. She is an alum who grew up at PCT, left to study at Baylor, and has returned to teach the next generation of young performers.
If your child’s world is not a stage, you can always support PCT from the audience. Tickets are affordable enough for an entire family to enjoy an evening at the theatre. But if you do have a little drama queen or king on your hands, maybe they should meet the other characters at Plano Children’s Theatre and let their lights shine.Plano Children's Theatre Website > Buy Tickets to a PCT Show >