They're off to see the wizard, but he won't be the well-known Wizard of Oz.
By MONICA BOND
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Children twirled and waved black and blue streamers as they acted out the tornado from "The Wizard of Oz" at W.D. Packard Music Hall's fourth year of children's summer theater programming.
The program runs this week, with final performances of "The Wizard of Oz" at 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday on the music hall's stage.
Children's summer theater aims to discover the artist in each person and help children gain self-confidence, said Pamela Chermansky, this year's artist in residence.
"Everyone is an artist -- we just have to validate it," she said.
Chermansky, a Newton Falls native, is a featured artist at Chicago's Navy Pier and works with New York's The Big Apple Circus' Clown Care program. The program's Chicago team consists of 12 clowns, who visit two children's hospitals and about 10 nursing homes.
The fine arts council was significant in inspiring her career and preserving the arts for the area, Chermansky said.
"I just think it's super important, when people are undergoing so many economic troubles, to keep the arts alive, to keep people hopeful," she said.
The power of youth
Chermansky said the cast will include all the children participating in the summer theater -- and the show will not be a typical, scripted production.
"I want to put the power into the children's hands," she said.
Chermansky said she hopes to awaken the children's imaginations and perform without a script, exploring the characters and angles as the children perceive them.
"I chose 'The Wizard of Oz' because it's well-known and because it has a good theme: rediscovering what we have," she said.
Sabrina Snell, 8, from Kinsman, performed in "The Nutcracker" three times at Packard Music Hall. She likes Chermansky's imaginative approach.
"It's really fun. I like that we get to make up our own things and don't have to follow the story completely," she said.
Bringing theater to families
Cherie Celedonia, Packard Music Hall assistant manager, started the children's theater program at Packard Music Hall. Celedonia began her theater career with Summerstock at Kent Trumbull and worked with Barter Theater, the state theater in Virginia.
"When I got back to the area, I saw there was this need, so I got people together and said 'let's do this,'" she said.
The program started small, and continues to grow. In addition to the summer theater program, there is a winter performance. Last year's "A Christmas Carol" cast of about 80 people included families. The youngest cast member was about 4 months and the oldest 79, Celedonia said.
Taylor Lody, 12, of Cortland, was Belinda Crachet in "A Christmas Carol."
"It was fun because you were working with a lot of different people and it involved teamwork, but it's also different because we were working with a script and here we're just working with ideas," she said.