Roseville Theatre Arts Academy
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Photo by Dante Fontana
Never say never. Especially to people who are dedicated to the theater arts.
When Civic Theatre West closed unexpectedly in November of last year, rehearsals were well underway for the Christmastime performances of A Furry Tale. Friends and collaborators, Program Director Michelle Raskey and Musical Director Jennifer Vaughn, were not going to let the simple fact of the shuttered Roseville Theater keep their tiny actors from performing for an adoring audience.
Just as Mickey Rooney said to Judy Garland in the 1939 classic film Babes in Arms, “Come on, let’s put on a show!” Raskey and Vaughn challenged everyone involved with this production to help make it happen. Nothing stopped the flow of energy and enthusiasm from former theater staff, actors’ parents, the theater owners, dedicated volunteers and the public. Everyone came together and the show ran for the scheduled four nights. “The parents, especially Renee Nash, saved the day,” Raskey says.
Raskey has worked for nearly 20 years in the Roseville Theater, under the banner of Magic Circle and Civic Theatre West, and she was determined to keep the theater program going. So, she and Vaughn started Roseville Theatre Arts Academy. In just under two months, on January 10 of this year, the theater reopened offering renewed educational programs that serve kids and adults. “Our program puts out amazing little people,” Raskey says. “They are so proud of themselves.”
This non-profit group offers workshops that culminate in a play for nearly all ages. The Little Ones (ages four to seven) and Youth (ages eight to 15) are participation-based workshops where everyone gets a part in a play. Next month their production of the melodrama The Saga of Sweet Hannah Sue will run August 11-26.
As the actors get older, they graduate to the Musical and Non-Musical Masters workshops for ages 10-20 years old. These advanced groups work on full-length Broadway-type plays. “It is a great mentorship program,” Vaughn says. “Kids taught years ago at four years old now mentor the little ones.”
Sammie Lee Wilhoit is an eight-year veteran actor. This adorable 12-year-old “ball of fire” loves performing and everything theatrical. She credits her work on stage for her bubbly personality. “Being on stage helps to build confidence,” Sammie Lee explains, with a huge smile. “I used to be really shy.” Her mom, Anne Wilhoit, echoes the sentiment. “I can’t say enough good things about the programs here.” Anne continues, “They truly changed the direction of my daughter’s life.”
Like so many nonprofits, they are struggling financially and are working desperately to keep the historic theater open and the programs ongoing. There is a crushing debt levied against the building and a real threat of it being gutted so that the bank can auction the contents. This prompted the “Save Our Seats” campaign to help pay back the loans.
Raskey knows theater is community. She says, “No matter what your current situation, you can come here and get a smile on your face.”
For more information, visit rosevilletheatreartsacademy.com.