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Fort Wayne Youtheatre Opens Season with Beloved Classic Charlotte's Web

With this weekend’s production of Charlotte’s Web, Fort Wayne Youtheatre kicks off their 2021-22 season in style, bringing one of the most popular pieces of children’s literature to life. While this production takes place in the familiar setting of the ArtsLab in the Auer Center, future performances of their upcoming season will expand upon a recent collaboration between Youtheatre and First Presbyterian Theater.

Choosing Charlotte’s Web felt like a natural as Youtheatre planned its upcoming schedule, said executive director Todd Espeland who also serves as director for the Web production.

“As we were planning the season, it felt like things might be returning to something like normal again this fall,” Espeland said. “It felt like a perfect way to start our season. It’s such a beloved show and deals with grief, death, hope in such a positive way. It’s the same for kids and the same for adults as they deal with death. It may be the end of one story, but it’s the beginning of another. I think the cast has enjoyed the story, and they’re very happy to be creative again.”

Tackling such topics in the midst of a pandemic is part of what defines Fort Wayne Youtheatre which is not just tasked with presenting entertainment to the community but also with teaching young performers through classes and performance opportunities. This particular cast is 18 strong, with actors ranging from 9-16 years old. Espeland said that the cast represents some of their more seasoned “veterans” as well as some new faces to Youtheatre. Next on the Youtheatre schedule is Elf Jr., a perfect holiday offering for audiences of all ages. That production, as well as the March performances of Making Little Women: Louisa May Alcott and the May performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will be held at First Presbyterian Theater.

“We’ve had nice discussions with First Presbyterian, and it’s been great working with them,” Espeland said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for our students to work with their lights and sets and get more experience technically. And they get to work on that lovely stage. It’s been a good educational experience for everyone.”

The ArtsLab performances of Charlotte’s Web will run this weekend, October 6 at 7 p.m., October 9 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., and October 10 at 2 p.m. A sensory friendly performance will be held on October 10 at 4:30 p.m. with a Touch Tour at 4 p.m. A school performance will take place on October 11, and a free performance for the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Wayne will also run the following weekend as well as a free performance at the James Cultural Pavilion in Auburn.

The October fun doesn’t end there for Youtheatre. Still unable to do as many school appearances as they have in the past, Fort Wayne Youtheatre is continuing its collaboration with WBOI as they air their WYTR 1930s style radio show which captures the fun of Halloween while teaching their young performers about vocal performance and sound effects needed to sell a show relying on sound only. Directed by Christopher Murphy, the show will air on WBOI on October 27 at 7 p.m. and October 30 at 7 a.m. The pieces are original and written for Youtheatre by recent alum.

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