Parents and kids get a night out

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By Amy Ryffel-Kragh

“It really is a trend,” said Tom Whatley, director of the education at Ocala Civic Theatre. The concept of “Parents Night Out” is not a new one. In fact, other theatres have been doing it for a while.

The idea for the evening is to give parents a chance to get out of the house and enjoy a live theatre production, while being able to bring the children along also – solving the age-old babysitter dilemma. So Ocala Civic Theatre has adopted the family outing combination for their current performance of The Baker’s Wife.

While parents are watching the show, the kids will be in the conference room for the children’s activity night. They will be entertained during the two-hour production by doing activities like crafts and theatre games.

And, if all goes well, Whatley said it would be an option for future productions. “This is kind of our test run,” he said.

The Baker’s Wife is set in rural France and is about a man who has his wife swept away by another suitor and ultimately loses his “zest for life” and baking. This sends the small rural town into “chaos.” During the musical, the people in the town attempt to find the wife and try to convince her to return home.

In addition to the experimental children’s night/parents night, Ocala Civic Theatre has a variety of educational programs for children. During the school year,  the theatre offers classes for students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

For younger students, the amateur theatre offers courses like Dora, Diego and Friends, which teaches the children that imagination “can unlock the treasures of storytelling.” Tuition is $30.

Third- to fifth-grade students can take a class called Music from East High. The month-long course is for fans of the High School Musical movies and gives students a chance to perform songs, while learning how to use an expressive theatre voice. The course is $30.

Grades six through 12 can take Scene Studies. The class teaches aspiring actors about conflict and character goals by going through a scene with a partner. The cost of this class is $40.

In addition, the theatre also has started to offer a first pre-kindergarten class. Whatley said the Mommy and Me class will teach the children social skills and group activities. It costs $10 per child.

During the summer, the Ocala theatre offers all-day classes in acting, music, dance –   and some performances are included.

Community Projects

The playhouse offers theatrical services outside of theatre also. The organization is currently traveling to Marion County elementary schools for its literacy tour.

Each year the group does a presentation and reads to students. The theatre highlights a different author annually.

This year they are reading works by Shel Silverstein, who is the author of The Giving Tree, among other works. Whatley said they would probably read to approximately 6,000 students in the county during the literacy tour.

Later in the school year, the organization will go back out in the community for its performance tour, which is for students in the third- to fifth grade. The production, Choosing Sides for Basketball, focuses on four students who are waiting to be picked for a basketball game, Whatley said. Adults from the theatre will perform the 35- to 45-minute show.

The nonprofit Ocala Civic Theatre has approximately 400 to 450 volunteers and is funded through grants, fundraisers and donations. The theatre has approximately 5,000 season ticket holders.

For more information, call 236-2851 or visit www.ocalacivictheatre.com. Ocala Civic Theatre is at 4337 East Silver Springs Blvd.

Parents Night Out will be Saturday, Feb. 21 and costs $10 per child with the purchase of two regular theatre tickets. Reservations should be made at least 48 hours prior to the performance.

The theatre asks that all children be potty trained and between the ages of 3 and 13. They can be dropped off as early as 7:30 p.m. and must be picked up immediately after the show.

The Baker’s Wife starts at 8 p.m. and admission is $20 for adults and $10 for full-time students. It opened Feb. 5 and will run through March 1.

Contact Amy Ryffel-Kragh at 854-3986 or e-mail akragh@newsrlsmc.com.