By Rebecca Fedorko Lariat Reporter
The Waco Civic Theatre will put on its first act of the year at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, a children’s theater production titled “Miss Nelson Is Missing.” The cast is made up of local child actors who sing and act in the parts of mischievous schoolchildren.
The musical is based on a book with the same title. The story is about a teacher named Miss Nelson who is so kind that her students take advantage of her and are wildly disobedient. Soon enough, however, Miss Nelson disappears suddenly and is replaced by a horrible substitute teacher named Miss Swamp.
The child actors are expressive, make faces and engage their audiences in a range of amusing roles. The sing-song score, including the tracks “The Worst Kids of All!” and “I Have A Little Secret,” is reminiscent of childhood classroom ditties and draws the audience into the story.
“It’s literature that either they’re familiar with or that’s geared towards them,” said Tredessa Thomas, the director of the play. “In their schools they’ll have read it, and onstage they’ll be getting to watch their peers doing it.”
The Waco Civic Theatre puts on an average of two children’s theater productions a year in addition to its normal line-up. The children’s theater is a mixture of workshops and shows that are meant to help elementary through high school children engage in the theater arts. Roles are played almost exclusively by actors between the ages of 5 and 18.
“A lot of these kids are in good programs around town, but it’s an opportunity for them to work with a variety of kids they don’t normally work with,” Thomas said. “I prefer working with kids. I love their energy and creativity, and they can begin to appreciate the art form.”
The theater also puts on several full-cast productions with adult actors each year and has done a number of well-known works, such as “Les Miserables,” “Miracle on 34th Street” and “The Addams Family Musical.”
The casts for these productions are made up of volunteers from different careers who are all connected by one thing—a love of theater.
“In addition to being one of the oldest and most unique art forms, it’s one of the most collaborative as well,” said Scott Peden, a volunteer sound designer at the theater. “It invites people from all walks of life to participate: carpenters, dancers, technicians or even fans. The audience is a key part of any production.”
The Waco Civic Theatre is one of the centerpieces of theatrical performances in the Waco area, as well as an artistic outlet for many Wacoans. It is not only a place for entertainment but also a point of convergence for the community, a place where people can come together and collaborate on something that has little or nothing to do with their chosen careers, Peden said.
“No matter what your hobby is, there’s a place for you at the theater,” Peden said.