Theater program stirs creativity

Youth camp: Creative Theatre Experience teaches art, music, dance to kids of all ages

lpemberton@theolympian.comJuly 16, 2012 

There’s an opening-night tradition at Creative Theatre Experience that helps keep stage fright at bay for young performers.

Before the show, the youngest child gets to open the bottle where the fairy “Sparkle Plenty” lives.

“She settles in the stomachs, and that’s what they’re feeling in their tummies before the show,” said artistic director Kathy Dorgan.

If everything goes as planned, the magical theater fairy will be able to ease jitters for about 100 kids in grades one through seven who will be performing in four short plays Thursday through Saturday.

She’s also scheduled to make opening-night appearances for the other 100 or so students who make up the casts of “Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon,” running July 26-28, and “Honk,” slated for Aug. 2-4.

Creative Theatre Experience, also known as CTE, offers four tracts. Students in grades one through seven can participate in Arts Festival, a mix of art, music, theater, movement and dance. Students in grades six-12 can participate in Showcase and work on a musical production Spotlight, which creates a nonmusical production, or join the Production Team, which works on lighting, sound and the technical side of theater performance.

All the programs run four to six weeks.

The 31-year-old program differs from other youth theater camps because it’s not just about the productions, Dorgan said.

“Only about a third of the time is spent rehearsing for a play,” she said.

The rest of the time students are attending workshops or participating in activities that are about visual art projects, studying theater, dance, music and storytelling, she said. CTE also helps children develop leadership, teamwork and social skills, she added.

“I think the kids really find themselves through the arts,” Dorgan said.

Creative Theatre Experience was founded in 1981 and grew out of a senior research project for Tracey Foster, who was a student at the University of Washington, according to its website. The first workshop drew 40 children and was led by Foster’s mother, Lois Wofford, a music teacher for North Thurston Public Schools.

This year’s program includes about 225 students from schools mostly in Thurston County, Dorgan said. The faculty and support staff of 12 includes several certified teachers; one of them is Dorgan, who teaches drama at Olympia High School.

“We have four people on our staff who started at CTE as kids,” Dorgan added.

Among them: Stephanie Kroschel, 21, of Olympia, who works on costuming. She was part of CTE productions as a student for four years, then as an intern for six.

Kroschel, who is studying education at Northwest University in Kirkland, described the youth theater program as “a home away from home” for everybody involved in it.

“It’s irreplaceable,” she said. “It’s taught me how to be myself and love being myself.”

Eleven-year-old Reese Sigman of Olympia said she enjoys the summer program because it offers theater opportunities that her school doesn’t.

“I’m waiting all school year, going, ‘Oh my gosh, CTE is coming,’” she said. “It’s really fun. … I like basically everything about theater.”

If you go

What: Students in Creative Theatre Experience will perform three short musicals, a play and two songs during an Arts Festival performance.

When: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Olympia High School Performing Arts Center, 1302 North St.

Cost: Tickets are $6 advance and $8 at the door.

More information: 360-596-7036 or

In addition: A “Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon” will be performed July 26-28, and “Honk” is slated for Aug. 2-4. 360-754-5433 @Lisa_Pemberton

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