St. Louis Kids of All Abilities To Take the Stage

Almost every child dreams at one time or another of stepping on stage, belting out his or her favorite tune, and being applauded by a theater full of cheering fans.

But when the curtain finally rises and the spotlight hits the stage, many children with disabilities are left waiting in the wings.

However, thanks to one organization, these kids are getting their spot on the red carpet. Since 2009, Variety Children’s Theatre, a program of Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis, has given kids with physical and mental disabilities and incredible talent the chance to let their stars shine alongside professional St. Louis actors.

Said Jan Albus, executive director of Variety and executive producer for Variety Children’s Theatre, via email, “The idea came from me one day when I was thinking about using an inclusive vehicle for our children who love to be on stage.”

“I wanted that vehicle to be a classic Broadway show that would incorporate all the magic of children’s theater, a professional cast that would open up a new world for Variety’s thespians and give talented St. Louis kids who have never been on a stage in a production with children with disabilities the opportunity to appreciate the experience (and vice versa).”

After two successful productions – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and OLIVER! The Broadway Musical – which collectively entertained more than 10,000 fans, Variety is launching its third show, The Wizard of Oz, this fall. Directed by Tony Award-nominee Lara Teeter, The Wizard of Oz will run at the Touhill Performing Arts Center stage from October 21-23, 2011.

It's audition time!

But before rehearsals can begin, auditions will be held on Saturday, May 14 to populate the Land of Oz. Children, ages 7-16 years old, and of all abilities are invited to try out at The Conservatory of Theatre Art Rehearsal Spaces, 17 South Old Orchard in Webster Groves, at 9 a.m. Kids just need to bring along sheet music for their favorite song and be ready to learn some basic dance steps.

For children like 11-year-old Kaci Conley who has muscular dystrophy, Variety Children’s Theatre provides her the opportunity to fulfill her dreams as part of the children’s ensemble. “Being able to sing and dance on stage and make a bunch of new friends is awesome!” she remarked.

Her mother, Laura, agreed. “I’m thrilled to have Kaci participate in Variety Children’s Theater,” she said. “It has added tons of joy and fun to her life. Her smile says it all; I’m so proud of her!”

If your child has a song in her heart or a dance in his step, this is the audition your little superstar has been waiting for. And parents, if that inner Anne Hathaway or James Franco is trying to break free – good news – adult auditions are available by appointment starting at 1 p.m.!

To learn more about The Wizard of Oz and the upcoming auditions, please visit www.varietystl.org

By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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