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The Wizard of Oz

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Behind the Scenes

Watch a clip from Disney's Aladdin, from our 2010-2011 season.


Watch a video with clips from Goodnight Moon, from our 2009-2010 season.


Girl Scouts volunteer as UshersSpotlight on Our Volunteer Ushers

If you have ever attended a Children’s Theatre of Charlotte performance, chances are that you have encountered one of the Theatre’s volunteer ushers. Maybe an usher greeted you at the theatre door, making sure you received a playbill with information about the performance. An usher may have pointed out a row with open seats, so that your family could sit together. Or an usher may have directed you to the closest restroom, the parking validation station or a nearby family-friendly restaurant.

Children’s Theatre’s volunteer ushers help create a positive experience for audiences that is just as vital to the organization as what happens when the curtain rises. Audience Services Coordinator Shannon Hall estimates that by the time the 2009-2010 season draws to a close, volunteer ushers will have contributed over 3,500 hours of time to the Theatre.

“We try to give every family that comes through our doors a great audience experience,” said Hall. “That high level of customer service would not be possible without our amazing ushers.”

Throughout the season, Children’s Theatre draws on a pool of around 1,000 individuals who have signed up as potential ushers. These individuals come from many different sources and have a variety of reasons for becoming involved with the Theatre.

ENCORE!, the Theatre’s membership organization of dedicated volunteers, is one of the main groups that helps to fill the Theatre’s ushering needs. ENCORE! commitments include an ushering committee for both school and public performances, co-chaired by longtime members Sarah Prochaska and Becky Stowe, and each of ENCORE!’s more than 300 members is asked to usher three times throughout the year.

Many ushers are individuals with an interest in theatre, education or the arts. And ushering can also be a family affair. Children ages 8 and up are welcome to volunteer accompanied by a parent, and many families choose to usher while spending time together. “They see it as a way of giving back while exposing their children to something of value,” said Hall.

Ushering is also a community service opportunity for companies and other groups. Corporations making financial contributions to Children’s Theatre of Charlotte may also encourage their employees to support the Theatre with volunteer hours, as Bank of America and Target do. And students at local universities like UNC Charlotte and Johnson & Wales usher as a way to fulfill community service requirements for graduation. The Theatre’s audience services department keeps track of each volunteer’s hours and helps to complete any necessary paperwork.

“The students at Johnson & Wales University have numerous options for fulfilling their community service learning requirement, but one of the most popular sites has long been the Children's Theater of Charlotte,” said Bernice Parenti, Director of Community Outreach at Johnson & Wales. “Not only are our students treated with respect and gratitude, but they are often quite moved by experiencing the magic of live performance through the eyes of the youngsters in the audience. Through their experiences with the Children's Theatre they are reminded (or sometimes introduced!) to the value of having a vibrant local arts community.”

Frequently, ushering leads to getting involved with Children’s Theatre of Charlotte in other ways as well. “We’ve had people come in who went on to intern in our costume shop and with ImaginOn, and we’ve had corporate groups who have donated equipment after ushering with us,” said Hall. “This volunteer opportunity is also a way to introduce people to the work that the Theatre does, and a wonderful channel for relationship-building within the community.”

Neighborhood Bridges ProgramArts Education Spotlight: Neighborhood Bridges Program

“Donkey!” “Rooster!” “Sledgehammer!” “Screwdriver!” Fourth grade students wave their hands in the air, calling out the names of animals, then the names of tools, while a Children’s Theatre of Charlotte teaching artist records their words on the classroom whiteboard. Later in the class period, students will combine these words with prepositions to make phrases that - despite or perhaps because of their silliness - spark ideas for stories to be written down and acted out.

These students are participants in Children’s Theatre’s Neighborhood Bridges program, now being implemented in four fourth grade classrooms at three CMS schools. Created by the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, Neighborhood Bridges uses storytelling and creative drama to enhance students’ critical thinking, writing, and presentation skills. Thanks in part to support from Target, a first-time funder of the program, this year Neighborhood Bridges will help almost 100 students become better writers and prepare for the End of Grade (EOG) State Writing Test. The program is also funded by the Arts and Science Council.

Now in its fifth year as a Children’s Theatre program, Neighborhood Bridges has proved particularly successful in Title I schools, identified by CMS as higher-need schools based on student achievement. The three schools served this year, Pinewood Elementary, Shamrock Gardens, and Hidden Valley, are all classified as Title I.

“Neighborhood Bridges is one of the strongest in-school programs that we do,” said Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s Education Director Valerie Rhymer. While many in-school residencies last one or two weeks, Neighborhood Bridges has a 15-week curriculum. The longer residency period means that Children’s Theatre artists really get to know the participating students and teachers.

“We take a lot of subjects that students are used to experiencing in their classroom, and use theatre activities to flip them around and make them unique,” says Neighborhood Bridges teaching artist Greta Zandstra, who also coordinates the program.

Artists work closely with teachers to make sure the program aligns with each teacher’s specific classroom initiatives. One classroom teacher wanted to introduce her students to Shakespeare, and Zandstra worked with her to help the students act out and discuss Hamlet. Bringing Shakespeare’s words to life themselves helped students explore the characters and themes of classic literature.

“We don’t want Neighborhood Bridges to feel like something extra to teach or learn,” said Rhymer. “The program is designed to adapt to the classroom environment and support the objectives that teachers are already working on with their students.” Because the sessions are team-taught, classroom teachers also gain the necessary skills to continue using theatre activities in class once the program is over.

“We know the arts have the power to bring communities together and help us see the world from different perspectives; and that’s why Target is proud to support the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s Neighborhood Bridges program,” said Jim Bauer, Target District Team Leader for Charlotte. “This program emphasizes the important link between education and the arts and how this link can improve student’s test scores and reinforce critical reading and writing skills.”

The Neighborhood Bridges program culminates in “Bridges Day” on April 16, when all participating classrooms will gather at ImaginOn. Each classroom will chose a favorite story from those they have explored throughout the year to perform for the other students in the Wells Fargo Playhouse, and students will see the Children’s Theatre production Goodnight Moon. “I’m really looking forward to the celebration,” said Zandstra. “It’s always great to see what the students are able to accomplish.”

Promo video forTreasure Island featuring N.C. Wyeth's classic illustrations of the novel:


Take a Look a Life on the Road with The Tarradiddle Players,
performing Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel...

Watch a :30 clip from "Be Our Guest" from Disney's Beauty and the Beast, from our 2009-2010 season.


A Backstage Look at Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Go behind the scenes as Children's Theatre of Charlotte prepares to kick off their 62nd season with an original staging of "Disney's Beauty and the Beast." Meet the Costume and Scenic Designers for the show and learn what inspired their take on the classic story.



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