Storybook Theatre keeps moving along

Maya Burton and Lexi Chipman relax momentarily before the show start. After the Dorena show, the two will be moving to Lincoln Middle School for their next show.

April 28 - When Maya Burton and Lexi Chipman, the two driving forces behind Storybook Theatre, finish the production of “The Ugly Duckling” at Dorena Grade School, they will be loading up and heading to Lincoln Middle School to start the process all over again.

Their youth theater program is both amazing and inspiring. The two women are graduates of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle and ended up in Cottage Grove through, of course, connections in the artistic community.

“Between 2013 and 2018 we came to Cottage Grove to work with Judy Smith helping teach week-long musical theater intensives,” Burton explained. “And we met Judy through her daughter, Lindy Lou Smith, who was a student with us at Cornish.”

Everything theatrical was largely shut down during COVID, but in 2022 Burton, Chipman and the Smiths connected again. This time it was to take over, with Judy Smith’s blessing, Storybook Theatre which had all its props, costumes and equipment in storage.

Storybook Theatre’s vision is to “provide a safe and nurturing space for young people to build confidence, cultivate creativity and discover their unique voice through the magic of theater made deeper by classical literature.”   

To accomplish this, they start out by going where the kids are… schools. Historically, there have been plenty of opportunities for kids to play sports, but fewer chances to explore the arts. Storybook Theatre is hoping to change that imbalance one school, one play, one kid at a time.

“Right now, we don’t have a lot of sound equipment, but the high school is letting us borrow speakers and mics when they don’t need them,” explained Burton. “When we move from school to school, we load everything up in cars, and mostly our Board members’, vehicles and just go. ”

Describing them as a mobile theater is accurate.

Their process is well thought out. “When we go into a school, we go with nothing but our scripts. We open it up to about 20 kids and get to know them, playing theater games, learning theater basics and doing skits,” Burton explained. “Then we adapt one of our scripts to fit the kids, have them read monologues with no idea what part they’re auditioning for, and then we cast it and start rehearsals.”

Burton is the Musical Director and both women are show Directors. The two will use karaoke backings for singers, sometimes adding a student musician if one is available, or for an ensemble number, the students can all sing along with the music.

Storybook Theatre is a 501C3 non-profit and is funded by donations and, hopefully in the future, by grants. The school programs are also partially funded by whatever the school has available in after-school funds. Parent volunteers are welcome, and an experienced grant writer would be appreciated.

“We don’t charge for anything but summer camps,” explained Chipman, “and we do have a generous scholarship program for the camps.”
One of the things that allow them to offer generous scholarships is their annual fundraiser, going on now. Their web page,, has a “Donate” button that will lead donors to the appropriate place.

“The Ugly Duckling” is scheduled at Dorena for April 21 at 7 pm and April 22 at 2 pm. Then Storybook Theatre will be moving to Lincoln Middle School to start all over, concluding with a show, title yet to be announced, June 1 at 7 pm and June 3 at 2 pm.  Tickets are $5 at the door. A fund raiser is also planned in early June.

Storybook Theatre will be offering two camps this summer, a 4-week musical theater camp for ages 11-18 running Monday through Friday, 10 am to 3:30 pm. A musical theater minicamp will be offered for ages 6-10 and will run Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 2 pm.

Registration for both summer camps start May 1 with more information available on the website,