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Creators of Kid Shows Scramble to Cover Costs

Most local producers ask their own participants to contribute cash plus rely on door charges to meet expenses.


In old MGM musicals like "Babes in Arms," a couple of kids could round up their friends and put on a show in their backyard. Today's Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland would have to ask the other kids in the neighborhood--or, more likely, their parents--to come up with the cash in advance.

A young local producer, Carrie Reisser, is asking participants in her upcoming "A Little Princess" at the Arts Council Center in Thousand Oaks to pony up $50 each. If she doesn't, she asked, where is she going to get the money to finance her play?

And she's hardly alone. Most children's productions in Ventura County rely on their participants, as well as a door charge, to cover their expenses. Virtually no adult production does.

Michael Jordan, whose Gothic Productions has mounted several plays with adult casts in the Arts Council Center, recalled having to finance his first show, "Dracula" in 1983, on his credit card.

Jan Glasband, whose Actors Repertory Theater of Simi Valley Youth Ensemble does not charge its teenage participants, requires cast members to supply their own costumes, "and various people involved in the group were able to provide resources at their own cost," Glasband said.

She did not even charge admission for the Youth Ensemble's first production, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," but asked for donations at the door. They not only recouped show costs for paint, building material and so on, she said, "but we were able to pay each cast member an honorarium of $17.32."

Other producers, locally and all the way up to Broadway, find backers or investors--"angels" in backstage parlance. Jordan has kept his company running through ticket sales, he said, but he has one important advantage: the Arts Council Center, part of the Conejo Recreation and Park District, essentially subsidizes rent on the facility.

"The problem with children's shows is that they have a large overhead," Jordan said. "Many are musicals, which entail a higher royalty than dramas, and call for costumes that can't be reused. A production of 'Peter Pan' for children that I appeared in (as Capt. Hook) a few years ago, spent more money on their set than I spend on two of my shows, which use minimal sets and costumes.

"Also, children's theater is a glorified baby sitter, for six or seven weeks of rehearsal plus performances. And if the child has any talent, they're getting trained."

While most people working in community theater do so for the non-financial rewards of participating, said Jordan, "as far as I know, everybody who works in children's theater gets paid for it."

We'll discuss theater classes for children in a future column.

Casting Call: Cabrillo Music Theatre's auditions for "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" will be held by appointment only Aug. 3 in North Hollywood, and Aug. 4 in Newbury Park. Saturday's auditions are for the roles of Narrator (female specified), Jacob, Joseph and Pharaoh; Sunday's are for principals, chorus and singers. For appointments or further information, call 497-8613.

The production is also looking for an existing children's or youth choir. Those interested should contact Kevin Traxler at 520-0043.

Gothic Productions will hold open auditions for Patrick Hamilton's "Angel Street" from noon to 3 p.m. Aug. 3-4 at the Arts Council Center, 482 Greenmeadow Road, Thousand Oaks. Jim Didderich is director. For further information, call 381-2747.

The California Shakespeare Company will hold auditions for "Macbeth" at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 6-7 at the company's theater, 6685 Princeton Ave., Moorpark. No appointment is necessary, but bring a prepared monologue and be ready to read cold from the text for director William Fisher. For further information, call 498-3354.


* "The Wizard of Oz" continues Thursday through Sunday evenings through Aug. 11 at the Ojai Arts Center, 113 S. Montgomery St., Ojai.

* "Sweeney Todd," a production by the Young Artists Ensemble, continues through Aug. 3 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza's Forum Theatre. Performances are 7:30 Friday through Sunday, and Wednesday through Aug. 3. Tickets are $16 and $12 for adults; $10 students, seniors and children. This show contains a fair amount of bloodshed, and is not for the squeamish or easily impressionable--or their young children! For reservations or further information, call 381-2747.

* "A Little Princess" runs Aug. 9-16 at the Arts Council Center, 482 Greenmeadow Drive, Thousand Oaks. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9-11 and 16; 2 p.m. Aug. 10, 11, 14-16. Admission is $4 for adults; $3 for children under 18, with special family rates. For reservations or further information, call 379-9606.

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