Once again, Raleigh Little Theatre is coming east. After filling up their popular program in the city, the program’s directors were looking to expand.
Last year, a Wendell family approached the company and asked them to start a session in their town that summer.
Two years ago, Raleigh Little Theatre, a drama education and performance company that’s been around since the 1930s, had attempted to host programs in Wendell, Knightdale and Zebulon. With some programs not filling up in addition to some company turnover, the programs fizzled out.
But now, Wendell’s programming is rapidly filling and time will tell for Knightdale. The new programs will stagger their six- to eight-week sessions – the first and fourth of the year in Knightdale and the middle two in Wendell.
Knightdale Parks and Recreation program supervisor Megan Thornton said the town’s past theater classes with Raleigh Little Theatre were such a success that the town’s more theatrical children were demanding their return.
“Everyone seems pretty excited to return,” she said. “It’s definitely a unique program, something different that’s not typically offered in Knightdale and eastern Wake.”
Raleigh Little Theatre emphasizes education through theater for all ages, said executive director Charles Phaneuf.
“What makes this program unique is youth development through theater,” he said. “It’s more sharing than a formal production, though our on-site has more in-depth programs.”
Classes focus on structured play, skill-building and acting.
Each program is capped at 14 students and the sessions are for all ability levels but are typically “very introductory,” Phanuef said. They divide the programs into younger and older children. Older children, ages 9-12, are able to practice improv.
So far in Wendell, they have seen families coming from as far east as Rocky Mount.
“In the summer, people are willing to travel,” Phanuef observed. “(The further) outside of Raleigh, there are less and less things for kids to do. It made sense to us to have a year-round presence in eastern Wake County.”
With interest expressed in Clayton and Wake Forest as well, the program has potential to expand further.
“We’re hoping that during the school year, people won’t have to drive to Raleigh to take a class,” added Kathleen Rudolph, associate education director at Raleigh Little Theatre.
“We’re hoping eventually that we’ll build longevity of this program, more full-length productions,” Phaneuf said.
“It’s all about life experience,” Phaneuf said. “We’re not going to teach your kid to be on Broadway but the idea that your child can learn great things about themselves and learn skills that make them better team members, leaders etc. ... it’s as much about building relationships in different parts of the county ... as much as offering (theater) for the kids.”