Before Rose Children’s Theatre began in 1978, parents were putting on plays for their children.
Now, nearly 40 years later, the roles have reversed: Rose Children’s Theatre (RCT) has produced a multitude of shows centered on children performing with the goal of building a community of families and theatergoers.
“We have raised up generations of kids that are more than capable of doing it,” says Monique Ripley, a current board member and past president of RCT.
For its 40th season, Rose Children’s Theatre crosses into new territory: performing an original musical called To Oz.
“That’s kicking off our season — an original work,” Ripley says.
The director, Scott Frazier-Maskiell, has worked on shows with RCT for the past few years. To Oz presents a bit of a twist on the classic story, Ripley says, because it is in a contemporary setting and features all of Frazier-Maskiell’s original music. The play offers various styles of song and dance.
Ripley hopes the community will be excited about seeing an original show.
“It’s all new and fresh,” she says. “I think it will be exciting to see kids in contemporary clothing.”
What has made RCT special is the community built around it, Ripley says. For every kid in the play, there is a family member who volunteers during the production process, doing anything from set building to making costumes or running a ticket booth.
“I love how this has always been a consistent vision — to serve Lane County families,” Ripley says.
Ripley says many young actors who worked with RCT continue acting into adulthood. Spencer Hansen, an RCT alum, lives and acts in New York. He recently starred in the national tour of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Ripley says that, when the tour came to Salem, other RCT children went to see Hansen perform.
Evynne Hollens is another local actress who spent time with RCT growing up. She now works at The Shedd Institute and is also a popular YouTube star.
Moving into the future, Ripley hopes the theater will continue increasing involvement and gain a more diverse base of kids who participate.
“The arts aren’t being funded as they once were in the schools,” Ripley says. “We really see the benefits of arts for the kids.”
Throughout RCT’s 40th season, Ripley says they will be putting on various events leading up to a large celebration next summer that will include many of the directors and actors who have worked with RCT through the years.
To Oz opens 7 pm Friday, April 27, and runs weekends through May 6 at the Wildish Community Theater in Springfield. Tickets at rosechildrenstheatre.org.