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'Children' growing up

Some participants embark on final summer workshop performance

Some participants embark on final summer workshop performance

July 24, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -The thought struck Gabrielle Tokach a week before opening night: This was going to be her last time performing with Apollo Civic Theatre's Youth Summer Theatre Workshop.

"We just finished walking the last scene, and I look over to my best friend Megan - it's her last scene, too," said Tokach, 19. "I had to stop myself from getting teary eyed."

The Youth Summer Theatre Workshop will present its production of "Children of Eden," a musical about the first few chapters of the Bible. The show's music and lyrics were written by Stephen Schwartz, the music man behind "Wicked."

"Eden" opened Thursday and will continue through Sunday, July 26. For the 55 participants involved either as actors or crew members, opening night represented the culmination of six weeks of work.

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The workshop, in its 27th year, is intended to introduce young people to theater. This is a bittersweet year for six of the participants, who won't be coming back next year, because they'll be too old. The summer youth program is for ages 9 to 19, said the show's co-director Sharyn Leiter.

"It's sad, because all these people I've met here," said Megan West, 19, of Martinsburg, is cast as Mama Noah. "I've been here since I was 11."

West and Tokach, who lives in Cross Junction, Va., met each other through the summer theater program. Tokach has been participating in the workshop as long as she's been eligible to do so. She still remembers her first day - the first time she ever auditioned for anything.

"I think I just stood up there and just froze," Tokach said. "I don't even think words came out of my mouth."

She ended up landing a roll in the play that year, "Tom and Huck."

"I was cast as one of the school girls," Tokach said.

Tokach's mother, Debra McCauley-Tokach, is co-director of the play. She said her daughter's passion for performance arts was so strong, that she and her husband decided to purchase a home in Bunker Hill, W.Va., in order for her to attend a high school with a better theater program. During the summer, they live in Cross Junction, about 40 minutes' drive from Martinsburg, McCauley-Tokach said.

"This is her life and my husband and I decided, 'She's a good person and this what she wants to do so we'll do what we have to do to help her,'" said McCauley-Tokach.

Gabrielle is her only child.

"It's kind of a bittersweet thing, I guess," McCauley-Tokach said. "That just mean she's maturing, she's moving on to other things, and I will have to move on to some other things. It's very sad, but at the same time, boy, has she grown. She has blossomed, and she has chosen this theater to be her family."

Tokach is will be a sophomore at West Virginia Wesleyan College. She's double-majoring in music theater and arts administration. Her long-term dream is to run her own theater, after having a long and fulfilling career as an actress.

Her immediate dream is that people who come and see "Children of Eden" understand the play's secular theme.

"It's not about (religion)," Tokach said. "It's about family relationships. When people walk out of this theater I want them to examine their own relationships that they have with their friends (and) family and see how they impact one another."

If you go ...



WHAT: "Children of Eden," presented by Apollo Civic Theatre's Youth Summer Theatre Workshop

WHEN: Shows continue through Sunday, July 26. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

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

COST: $15, general admission; $12, Sunday matinees; $7, student admission for any show

MORE: Visit the Apollo Civic Theatre online at www.apollotheatre.org or call the theater at 304-263-6766.

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