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Alva James-Johnson: Family Theatre cultivates young talent

Alva James-Johnson

ajjohnson@ledger-enquirer.com

From left to right: Supushpa Mahadeo, Sydney Cardwell and Catherine Boyd perform in the play Really, Fern?, which will continue 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Family Theatre,   2100 Hamilton Road.
From left to right: Supushpa Mahadeo, Sydney Cardwell and Catherine Boyd perform in the play Really, Fern?, which will continue 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Family Theatre, 2100 Hamilton Road. Courtesy of Family Theatre

There’s nothing like seeing a child blossom.

I’ve witnessed it as a parent, of course, and also as a church children’s choir leader.

For several years, I directed annual drama and musical productions, and saw some of the most bashful children overcome their insecurities on stage. They were always amazed at what they were able to accomplish, and I felt blessed to be a part of the process.

So it gave me great pleasure Saturday night when my husband and I visited the Family Theatre in Columbus to watch a cast of teenagers perform.

The theater is located in what used to be the fellowship hall at Rose Hill Baptist Church, which is located at 2100 Hamilton Road. We purchased tickets when we first walked into the building, and then we were ushered into a room with nicely decorated tables. Across the hall there was a cafe, which sold popcorn and other refreshments. Complimentary desserts were served during intermission.

The play presented that night was Really, Fern?, an original production about a high school girl who desperately wants to fit in with the popular crowd. Fern is smart, funny and tall, and begins to compromise her own principles to be accepted. Most of the actors were young students, stretching themselves and discovering their talents.

Cheryl Palmour, the theater’s managing and artistic director, said that’s what the Family Theatre is all about. It’s a Christian-based ministry that aims to provide quality programming that can bring families together.

“We use a lot of children and teens in the productions, along with adults,” she said. “And we give kids a chance to get started and to develop the craft. We’ll take somebody if they’re interested and they audition.”

Palmour said Family Theatre started in 1997 under the auspices of Anne Stumhofer, a local teacher. She started out with home school students who didn’t have theater as a part of their educational experience. And today the theater caters to people of all backgrounds.

The organization does eight productions a year, Palmour said. It opened this season with Fancy Nancy The Musical, and the next production will be The Importance of Being Earnest. Really, Fern? will continue showing this weekend at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The theater is also working on building renovations and developing partnerships with the Liberty Theatre and other organizations to serve a wider group of children, Palmour said. She hopes to continue developing young talent in the Columbus community.

“A lot of the kids that come from Family Theatre have said there’s this sense of family,” she said. “They feel accepted for who they are. They make friends and they use theater to help them develop life skills that are outside of just performing.”

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