It's my daughter Kiara's fault that we joined All-of-Us Express Children's Theatre- once she was cast in a show, we noticed her usually teary-eyed, sulky behavior change to dry-eyed, happy engagement in school and family activities! Her grades went up considerably (from C's and D's to all A's) and her organization skills skyrocketed! With the discipline learned during her time with AECT, she is now a very certain person who doesn't follow the "popular" crowd, but confidently does her own thing. I can't imagine how her life would be now if we hadn't joined the All-of-Us Express Family- I hope you'll see why our family supports this amazing professional children's theatre... it's not just about acting, it's about learning!
Our story begins with a chance encounter with a munckin from the Land of Oz. My daughter Kiara was in a 2nd/3rd grade split class that was selected to act in the Everett High School's rendition of The Wiz. After the first night of applause, she told me she wanted to be on the stage for the rest of her life! I knew a little bit about All-of-Us Express from my business partner, as her daughter was invloved with some of their shows. We decided to go in and see what all the fuss was and took Kiara to her very first audition! Right from the start, I realized that this was going to be a quality theatre experience for my daughter. I was impressed by the professionalism of the audition! While I filled out information sheets, Kiara was measured for height and size (they make the costumes for each actor) and then photographed. She was given a script and waited until her name was called to do a cold read of a character. This particular show (still one of my favorites) was A Midsummer Night's Dream. (Did I mention that one performace per show is professionally filmed and available for purchase?) I thought it would be a kid rendition, but was surprised to discover that the script was not any watered-down version.. it was Shakespeare's play! Kiara struggled to get the words out and was quite angry that this playwright's version of English was messed up (lol). I sat with other parents and listened to kids who read quite proficiently from the script! (I later learned that audition workshops are held before each show so kids can come in and read from the script as well as get instruction). Kiara didn't get a callback, but she did get a call that weekend offering her a part as puppetter of a fairy. She gladly accepted and began her life-long dream of acting. In the Fall of that same year, she signed up to be a crew member (cast one show, crew the next, and so on is the policy of All-of-Us). I wasn't sure how she would do, managing her time with school and rehersals, but she did wonderfully! I noticed a change in my daughter's attitude toward homework- once a struggle to get her to even sit for a few minutes, she finished all homework assignments on time! Then I got her first report card... all A's! WOW! What was going on with my kid?? I realized that her time with All-of-Us was actually HELPING her manage her own time! She was surrounded by smart, talented adult crew heads and under the supervision of a professional director. All kids were expected to follow protocol, which meant listen, participate, and do what they were told to do. Once a battle of wills, Kiara increasingly became more and more compliant at home. I believe to participate in the creation of something bigger than herself really pushed her to be her best at all times! She's now 14, and is Assistant Director of the upcoming show Jolly Rodger and the Pirate Queen. She has learned not just how to act on stage, but how to build a set, create and sew costumes, manage props, apply make-up, run the light and sound booth and many other theatre-specific skills. But it's the skills that she has learned about teamwork, discipline, time management, collaboration, innovation, and compassion that has made her time with All-of-Us so much more meaningful to me. My daughter's life was changed the moment we decided on All-of-Us Express Children's Theatre, and I couldn't be more pleased.
We have had All-of-us Express in our lives since my daughter was 2 years old. We found shows advertised in the local paper that we thought she might like to see, and she loved them. They were quality theater performances which was amazing in that they were all kids performing. At that time we didn't know that the kids do everything. From lights and sound, to set building and costume making; makeup stage design, assistant directing. board members and script selections. When my daughter was 6 she wanted to BE ON THAT STAGE and got her first role in the summer show. The volunteers and staff are great with the kids and have given them all wonderful skills and confidence that follows them through to their 'adult' careers. My daughter, at 13 is still performing with this group, and I have played many a volunteer role myself. We love telling people to come try out and be a part of this wonderful organization.
All-of-us has been a major part of my life. I have always loved it and I didn't even realize how much time I spent there until I moved and found my self just sitting around. All-of-us is such an amazing program thanks to them I have learned so much. The skills they have taught me have gotten me immediate respect from my current towns directors and theater managers. I started in summer show for fun when I was nine and became a year rounder. I used to hate doing crew but I came to love working backstage even more than being onstage. Seeing other small theater groups now I realize how well organized and professional All-of-us is. I admit, I cried after my last show and always try to get back and help. I have made life-long friends at all-of-us. It has become like a second family to me. I would go back and do it all over again a million times!