It’s a beautiful spring day as I climb the stairs at the Courthouse Center for the Arts, where I can clearly hear “Seasons of Love” spilling down from the performance space. Upon entering I find a group hard at work, but not a group of adults — this is a group of teens and younger rehearsing for a cabaret to benefit the Courthouse. On a beautiful spring day? What could possibly keep a group of children engaged and working on a Saturday? Who is behind this venture? Mya Lemry, a freshman in high school, is at the helm and is talking to her cast.
“I can’t learn these lines for you. You have to practice.” And practice they are! Lemry’s group, When I Grow Up Cabaret, is about to perform their second cabaret, These Magic Changes this weekend and next. The money will go toward keeping the children’s inclusion programs free and providing space and programs for the community. Marianne Almonte, executive director explains, “Our main goal and mission is to provide free inclusion programs in the arts for children. The programs run year-round. During the weekdays we provide work readiness and prep programs for our differently abled children. On the weeknights and weekends, we provide free programs in the arts and theater and music inclusion programs.”
I often say that theater is that one team sport where everyone is included, and Courthouse certainly runs with that mantra in mind. It’s that love of community and a love of a flourishing arts community that brought this production to fruition at the Courthouse. Mya explains what drove her to this project. “Kids seem to get overlooked sometimes, and I wanted a place where everyone was on the same playing field, no matter how old you are.”
When the young director approached Marianne, she truly found a kindred spirit. “I was ecstatic. Mya and her theater group, When I Grow Up, is utilizing the space for free for their rehearsals and show and she is donating the entire ticket to the Courthouse. They made me cry my happy cry.”
In this time of growing budget cuts to arts programs in our schools, it’s heartwarming to know that places like the Courthouse are here in Rhode Island to help ensure that the playing field is even. And on a larger scale, it’s important to the future of the arts in Rhode Island. If kids feel comfortable with the arts, they’ll become future arts participants, including patrons. And for Mya, the Courthouse has been that place for a while. “I picked the courthouse because I had done shows there in the past and I wanted a place that felt like home — not only to me, but to the kids.”
As for what keeps these kids focused and engaged during rehearsals? Austin Charette told me, “I love doing theater, and Mya’s a great director.” And although that sentiment was echoed by cast members Sebastian Rosa, Maryn Petitbon and Makayla Yates, Sebastian had more to say: “I like producing musical theater in the community.”
And as long as kids with vision keep producing, I am confident that the youth in Rhode Island will keep theater vibrant and alive for years to come.
Those Magic Changes runs April 12, 13 and 19 at 7pm at the Courthouse Center for the Arts. Purchase tickets at the Courthouse website at courthousearts.org