What's in a name? Quite a bit when it comes to a pair of local children's theaters.
Until last week, there were two groups in Orange County using the name Orange County Children's Theatre. The first, better known as the Fountain Valley Community Theatre until it changed its name last year, has been operating since 1971. The second, a newcomer to Orange County, but boasting three successful youth theater programs in Northern California, opened an office in Huntington Beach a few weeks ago.
It all got a little sticky when the Fountain Valley theater learned that the Huntington Beach theater was using the same name.
"It just wouldn't do with two with the same title," said Terri Schmidt, the president of Fountain Valley-based Orange County Children's Theatre. "It would create too much confusion, among other things, and anyway, we had the name first. We applied to the state in March (for the name change under incorporation guidelines) and were given it in April."
What to do? Schmidt contacted Alex Urban, the founder of the new group, and demanded that he come up with another name. Urban capitulated and then announced that his Orange County Children's Theatre is now the Greater Los Angeles Children's Theatre. The change, he noted, has been filed with the secretary of state's office in Sacramento.
"We were very surprised to find Terri already had that name and, because we want to be good neighbors and get along, we came up with something else rather quickly," he said.
Schmidt said she's satisfied and believes that there is enough room for both groups.
Competition between the two should be minimal because each offers different programs. The Fountain Valley group has open auditions for its shows without workshops or guarantees that every child will win a role. The Greater Los Angeles group conducts three-month workshops (costing $75 per child) before each production, and every youngster is assured a cast spot.
The GLACT recently began its first workshop, which will culminate in a production of "Oliver!" in May. The OCCT is also preparing for its next show, "John Willy and the Beeples," which is scheduled to open at Golden West College in the next few months.
Urban said his theater's new name may better reflect its future audience. Although his program will target Orange County in the coming year, it may eventually expand to neighboring Los Angeles County. "We see plenty of opportunity, both here and L.A.," Urban said. "There's no reason why we can't branch out."
Besides GLACT, Urban founded the Napa Children's Theatre, the Solano Children's Musical Theatre and the North Bay Children's Theatre in Northern California. All his programs are open to handicapped youngsters as well as able-bodied children.