Caryl Crane Youth Theatre at BGSU Firelands Turns 30
“I wanted a way to make my voice heard,” she said of the youth theatre program, a staple of the northcentral Ohio community and celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020. “Getting to do what I love, with people who are like my family, is one of the best experiences in the world.”
Daughtery’s experiences are shared by generations of participants as the program begins its third decade offering an outlet for creativity to students age six to 18 within the surrounding region. The program has grown from a small enterprise founded by its namesake Caryl Crane, a local music teacher, to a thriving community that last year supported a record 687 students.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve transformed from a two-show seasonal extracurricular activity, to a year-round theatrical training program,” said Artistic Director Brian Marshall. “But most importantly, we’ve maintained the original vision of accessibility.”
CCYT is one of few organizations nationally that is tuition-free, with support for participation provided by BGSU, grants, sponsors and private donations. For Marshall, a native of Sandusky and an award-winning actor and director, it’s a chance to continue to give back to his community and to the organization that introduced his first onstage performance 30 years ago.
For BGSU Firelands, it aligns perfectly with the college’s access mission.
“We are proud to be the home of the Caryl Crane Youth Theatre and fortunate to have a director whose vision and leadership allow young actors to realize the full scope of their talent,” said Andy Kurtz, dean of BGSU Firelands. “As a nationally recognized arts organization, access and affordability will always remain central to the mission of the Caryl Crane Youth Theatre, just as it does with BGSU Firelands.”
Hard work that pays off
Today, participants in the organization help stage eight productions each year, engineered through 90 classroom hours of training in all aspects of theatre. Recent productions included “Aladdin Jr.,” “We Will Rock You” and “Children of Eden.”
Daughtery notes the frantic pace is hard but rewarding.
“The biggest surprise about CCYT is how we can put an amazing show together in about three or four weeks and still manage to have the most fun time ever,” she said.
Critics have noticed. The program is beginning the fall campaign as the reigning champion of the National Performing Arts Festival, taking home first place for outstanding production (“Cats”). In addition to the signature award, Daniel Keener of Wakeman was awarded overall best performance from an actor, and Daughtery and classmate Emma McLelland of Huron were named best duet.
These national awards affirm the success found in the state: Recent Ohio Community Theatre Association statewide competitions netted 15 and 13 awards, respectively, including Best in Show and Best Direction and Choreography.
A bright future
The success of the organization has created high expectations. The organization was named by the Junior Theatre Festival as a 2020 Music Theatre International PILOT PROGRAM, the highest honor bestowed by the organization.
This year provides challenges ahead, but the students have embraced it. The organization has a full slate of plans for the year, including “Something Rotten Jr.,” “The Mickey Mouse Club Christmas Concert “and “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Time together is spent with safety in mind.
Marshall and Kurtz expect CCYT to continue its trajectory of growth, but always to maintain the original vision of accessibility Crane instituted when she and the college launched the program in 1990.
“We have created a model for an affordable and effective training program for youth of all backgrounds,” Marshall said. “It’s a testament to this wonderfully supportive community that we are able to grant access to all who wish to participate.”