Harrisburg-based home-school theater group debuts with ‘Wizard of Oz’

09/20/2013 12:00 AM

09/19/2013 12:10 PM

Katie Griffin has never acted in a play. Not even as the third person from the left in a crowd of extras during a school musical.

So when her kids expressed an interest in theater performance, Griffin, who home-schools all four of them, knew she needed professional help.

Enter Debra Mein, stage right.

Together the two (Mein is a professional actor and acting teacher) have launched Rise and Shine Players, Harrisburg’s first and only theater group for home-schooled children.

Auditions will be Sept. 25 at the Cannon Memorial YMCA on Harrisburg’s Main Street, but don’t bother showing up. The enormous outpouring of interest has already filled all roles, and then some.

Those who sign up on the group’s website, www.riseandshineplayers.org, will be added to the waiting list and may be worked into the production, Griffin said. The company will open its debut season with “The Wizard of Oz.”

“We wanted something big and splashy for our first show,” said Mein, who is an actor and acting instructor at both the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and the Old Courthouse Theatre in Concord. She will direct the new group.

Mein said her mother always fostered her interest in children’s theater.

“When I was a kid I was very shy, and only a ham at home in front of my mom and dad and siblings,” she said. “My mother put me in children’s theater when I was 6, and although I was so afraid and didn’t want to go, it changed my life.”

As an adult, Mein has worked in numerous traveling children’s theater companies based in New York City.

“That really shaped my career,” said Mein, who has since worked to bring theater opportunities to youth in each of the communities she’s lived in.

“As schools are taking drama out of the curriculum, unfortunately due to funding, it’s important, I think, to offer them.”

Opportunities are often difficult to find, and the number of kids interested in theater performance typically outnumbers the spaces available.

“We are often wait-listing (at OCT),” said Mein.

Last year, youth classes were so sought-after, she decided to offer three classes after the first one filled up so quickly.

While public and private schools often hold spring musicals for students to perform, opportunities for home-schooled children are difficult to find.

Griffin couldn’t find any daytime theater programs for her children, so she started her own.

She had no idea so many home-schooling parents were looking for theater performance opportunities.

So far, 40 kids have signed on, each paying the $75 fee to help secure the script rights, the stage rental at Hickory Grove High School, the rehearsal space at the YMCA and the prop and scene needs.

“We have people coming from Charlotte, Harrisburg and Concord,” she said. “Initially, I was concerned I wasn’t going to fill the 20 slots. It’s a great problem to have.”

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