A new beginning at Martinsburg theater

Apollo youth program moves forward with new director, new format

Apollo youth program moves forward with new director, new format

June 27, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- It will be a summer of firsts for the Apollo Civic Theatre's Youth Summer Theatre Workshop.

There's the new director, a new music director, a new training-intensive format, and many new faces among the aspiring crop of thespians.

But the new beginnings do not come without sadness. This is Apollo's first year without the workshop's popular leader Stephen Levi, who died in the fall of 2007. Levi directed the theater workshop for five years.

"We miss him," said producer Debra McCauley-Tokach. "He had such an impact on these kids."

The Youth Summer Theatre Workshop is an intensive program for young people interested in acting.

This year, the workshop is led by Wade J. Fransen, a theater professor who worked with Levi at Shenandoah University.

"He talked about this a lot, about how good the kids were," Fransen said.

Co-producer Sharyn Leiter said Fransen was selected because of his breadth of experience working with young actors.


The workshop started June 16. The students' production of "West Side Story" runs Thursday, July 24, through Sunday, July 27.

This year, the 52 students in the workshop focused the first week on training, so that the young actors would be more polished when it came time to audition for parts.

Megan West, an 18-year-old graduate of Martinsburg Senior High School, got the lead, Maria.

"I never had a lead part, so I'm looking forward to that responsibility," West said.

Megan has been involved with the workshop for six years, according to her mother Caroyln West. West said the workshops were a major reason her daughter chose to be a music major in college; Megan will be a freshman this fall.

"Stephen was the only director she has known here," West said. "It's an odd feeling, him not being here."

The transition has been smooth for parents and students, who described the atmosphere as "a good different."

"You have to learn to do that in any situation, to adjust," said Brian James, 18, of Martinsburg, who's been part of the summer program for four years.

The parents seem just as excited as the students about the new year.

Theater mom Lesley Lopez, of Martinsburg, participated in the youth theater program in the 1980s. She enrolled her son Christian, two years ago, when he was 11. This year will be his third year in the workshop.

"It's just something he can't wait for every summer," she said.

Lopez said she can't wait for opening night.

"I'm missing my high school reunion to see it," she said.

If you go ...

WHAT: "West Side Story," a production of the Apollo Civic Theatre's Youth Summer Theatre Workshop.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, July 24, through Saturday, July 26; and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 27

WHERE: Apollo Civic Theatre, 128 E. Martin St., Martinsburg, W.Va.

COST: $15, adults; $7, students with ID. Sunday tickets cost $12 for adults; $7 for students

MORE: For more information, go to

Theater for the entire family

Here are some other youth productions scheduled throughout the Tri-State region:

'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe'

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- A production by participants of Old Opera House Theater Company's Summer Youth Festival. Opening night 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 24. Shows continue through Sunday, July 27. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 p.m. Sunday's show starts at 2:30 p.m. Old Opera House, 204 N. George St., Charles Town, W.Va. Adult tickets cost $16 for Friday and Saturday evenings, $14 for Sunday matinees. Children and student tickets cost $8 for any show. For more information, visit the Old Opera House online, at www.oldopera

A play inspired by fairy tales

Authentic Community Theatre Summer Institute for the Arts will present "Voices in the Forest," a play based on Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Performances are at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, at North Hagerstown High School, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. For more information, go to

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