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Seeking young audiences in the South Sound

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It is always great to see budding theaters thrive. Not only does the growth of new theaters provide job security to those brave souls who opt to draw paychecks from reviewing their works, but it means that staged theater is alive and well as it finds new audiences in a time when YouTube and basic cable shows rule popular culture.

Having new theaters that also are seeking young audiences as a way to build future season subscribers is a double blessing on both counts.

While the South Sound was once a cultural wasteland not too long ago, it is now a blessed place. Frequent readers of this column — hi Mom and Dad — will roll their eyes as I get on my soapbox for a minute. Many theaters often strive to be all things to all theatergoers by staging one show from each genre. They might stage one mystery, one musical, one "family show," and one "edgy work" in a season in hopes that two or three of the shows are interesting enough to their base audiences to get them to buy membership tickets for the whole season. That is not a bad strategy to follow; don\'t get me wrong. It works to some degree, but troubles arise when everyone adopts the same idea. The same few shows then make their runs through the various theaters since there are only so many "generic" mysteries and musicals theaters can affordably bank on to draw audiences.

But there is another way. Two South Sound theaters are proving that this "road less traveled" works as well.

Tacoma Children’s Musical Theater

The veteran of the duo is Tacoma Children’s Musical Theater, which operates as a branch of Tacoma Musical Playhouse. It is entering its second season with "Annabelle Broom, the Unhappy Witch," the tale of a chic spook who would rather be fashionable than frightful. This rebellious witch is so bent on doing her own thing that her haunting card comes dangerously close to being revoked when she decides to help — instead of frighten — two lost children. 

The show runs at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Narrows Theater, 7116 Sixth Ave. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 seniors, students, military, and $10 children.  Call 253.565.6867 or visit

Olympia Family Theater

The second children\'s theater to spring up in recent years sprouted in Olympia last year as well and has built an audience base faster than it had first hoped.

Olympia Family Theater is staging its season opener with a big one — “The Velveteen Rabbit," an adaptation of the classic book by Margery Williams.

The story is sort of a Pinocchio tale as it follows the adventures of a stuffed rabbit on its quest to become a real bunny.

“The Velveteen Rabbit" provides young audiences with comedy, pathos, adventure, and a final triumph for the hero, who learns that love makes all things real.

"This is the first show of our second season, and last season was an amazing success, both in terms of finances and in building community support," says Managing Director Samantha Chandler. "Many of our performances sold out last year, so we\'ve added a fourth show and are performing two of our shows in the South Puget Sound Community College auditorium. As you know, Olympia is lousy with theaters, but there hasn\'t been anything aimed at kids as audience in a long time, other than the school day programs."

The first three shows of the run were sold out, so buy tickets soon. Shows are at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased from the SPSCC Box Office or by calling 360.596.5508.

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