Children's Theatre Is Set to Celebrate 40 Years


(Monday, March 19, 2007 10:48 AM EDT)

When it was formed in 1967, the goal of organizers of The Children's Theatre's was to introduce theater arts to young people, and to produce theater performances by children for children.

In 2007, that goal has not changed. The Children's Theatre celebrates its 40th anniversary with high aspirations for the years to come.

The Children's Theatre - now under the umbrella of Encore Stage and Studio - has put on more than 130 shows over the years, and more than 3,500 children have been involved in the program.

Of those 3,500, some have pursued careers in acting, others have gone in completely different directions - and a few have children in the program currently.

Marni Penning, a TCT alumus who was involved in the program in the early 1980s, is now a professional New York actor, and recently was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award. She remembers her time in TCT fondly.

“Everything about my childhood is colored by being in shows with The Children's Theatre,” she said in a recent interview. “It's where my best friends came from, and formed what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”

David Nachmanoff, who participated in TCT during the 1970s, makes his living as a performing musician, and he credits the program with giving him the tools for his profession.

“A lot of what I learned about performance I learned from TCT,” he said. “I've always been comfortable on stage. I also learned how to project and that certainly didn't hurt when I was starting out in smaller venues.”

Other alumni from TCT include Greg Garcia, creator and Emmy-award-winner for the television show “My Name is Earl”; David Smalley, lead singer and guitarist for numerous punk bands; and Erin Driscoll, local actress and winner of a Helen Hayes Award for her role in Signature Theatre's production of “Urinetown.”

Not all alumni have made it big, but many can't seem to leave the program and keep coming back to help out.

“People get involved and don't want to leave,” said artistic director Susan Keady. “It's very exciting.”

Keady has been involved with the organization since 1989 and became its artistic director in 1997. She also is a drama professor at George Washington University and a Wolf Trap Institute Teaching Artist.

She believes that TCT has endured “because we engage the family.”

“The kids are involved in a substantive activity that is really healthy, but, from the get-go, parents are involved,” she said. “We can't function without them.”

Although those involved with The Children's Theatre are pleased with its success over the past 40 years, they are always looking to improve and are actively trying to reach more children in Arlington, as well as expand to Alexandria and Fairfax.

“I am very excited about moving to new communities, but keeping a strong Arlington base,” Keady said. “We want to be exposed to more children.”

The Children's Theatre will celebrate its 40th anniversary at the Arlington Cinema 'n' Drafthouse on Sunday, March 25 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Patrons, participants and alumni are all invited to come.

The celebration will include the debut of a DVD of video clips from past performances. Matthew Heap, who is in charge of sound and sound effects for TCT's shows, will be accompanying the DVD live.

The cost to attend the celebration is $10 for individuals and $25 for families. For more information and to reserve tickets, e-mail

Nora, Peter and Collin Leibold represent two generations of Children’s Theatre participants.

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