Storybook Theatre gives kids a stage

In the early days of August, 15 teenagers will lock themselves in Opal Theatre and four days later, emerge having learned everything there is to know about performing. 

Storybook Theatre has been in operation for the last five years under the leadership of Cottage Grove resident Judy Smith. It operates as a non-profit under Opal Theatre and started with a realization. 

Smith, a longtime supporter of the arts and volunteer at Cottage Theatre looked around one summer and saw theatre kids without an outlet for their showmanship. Her daughter, who was also active in the Cottage Grove theatre community, was going to school in Seattle at the time, so Smith made a call. 

“I thought, what are the chances her and her friends would want to start a program down here and teach these kids?” She said. “So, I asked her and she asked her friends and there was an overwhelming response.”

There were 10 teenagers that first year who first met at Smith’s house where she gaged their interest before embarking on what would become an intensive seven-day theatre camp. 

“They’re mouths just fell open,” Smith said. “And they said yes, it was a great opportunity. 

Students spent seven days in classes at Opal from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. learning everything from tap to stage presence. 

Last year was the first that saw new students outside of the original 10—one of whom made their way to college in Seattle to study theatre as a result of Storybook Theatre. This year, Smith has increased the class to 15 students and spots went quickly. 

“We have one student coming from Palo Alto, CA,” she said. “She’s attending Parson’s in New York next year and her family thought this would be a good transition.” 

The schedule has changed just slightly as the camp undergoes a transitional year. 

Students will still be in class from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with few breaks in-between. They will receive material on Monday, study in college-level classes and then perform a private showcase on Friday for a panel of theatre professionals from Eugene. 

“We take a pause between each number and they write comments. After the show, we have one-on-one rotations for five minutes each with the professionals so they get positive feedback and advice,” Smith said. Students also get the chance to ask the panelists questions they have about the industry. 

On August 11, students put everything they learned in dance, puppetry and vocal classes on the stage again for a community show at Opal. 

“The performances are amazing,” Smith said. “But we don’t focus on the level of the performance because they had four and a half days to prepare so it’s not going to be perfect. It’s an educational opportunity that’s amazing.” 

The Storybook Theatre community shows will be held at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Opal Theatre on Aug. 11. For more information on tickets ($8 per person) visit

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