Showtime

Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat /

Youth drama has a new, year-round home in East Sonora.

After months of renovations, the Mountain Youth and Community Theatre - or MYACT - will host an open house at 6 p.m. Wednesday at its new building, a former warehouse at 14372 Cuesta Court.

MYACT participants are children in first through 12th grades. Older students are rehearsing for summer performances of "Music Man Jr. " and "The Little Mermaid Jr."

The new theater building contains a stage, lobby, handicapped-accessible restrooms, and a second floor for makeup tables and more.

That's a welcome change for the nonprofit MYACT, formerly Meyer Hideout and the Sonora Children's Theatre. The organization's summer camps are still called "Hideout."

When Meyer Hideout started in 2004, students rehearsed at Black Oak Elementary School in Twain Harte.

For performances requiring a bigger stage, the group would rent Summerville High School's auditorium or St. Patrick's Parish Hall in Sonora.

The frequent change of venue gave the group only a week to build sets, said MYACT assistant director Jessica Shapiro.

Having its own stage opens up new possibilities for the group, she said.

"It allows us to do so much more for the shows, to really work on the details, and I think it makes our shows look that much better," she said.

Students have already performed in the space, but they left it for MYACT's former location on Stockton Road to allow more renovations this summer.

Among other things, walls had to be demolished and a staircase constructed.

All the work was done by volunteers, said Terry Northcutt, a MYACT parent and board president. Local companies donated materials and expertise.

"It has truly been a community effort," he said, adding that the new theater's acoustics, lighting system and sound system are "incredible."

"They needed a permanent home because before, they were bouncing all over the countryside," he said.

The new space will be dedicated as the "Webster Theater," after a local family whose four children participated in Hideout. Two of them, Kelsea and Savannah Webster, were killed by a train in Utah in 2011.

Kelsea and Savannah's younger sister, Brenna, is now playing Marian the Librarian in "Music Man Jr."

Their mother, Jayna Webster, has provided "much love and support and delicious brownies to our group," Shapiro said.

And their father, David Webster, participated in MYACT's community production of "Once on This Island" last year.

That production was the first MYACT musical with actors of all ages, Northcutt said. Now that it's got a better space with a long-term lease, the organization plans to continue broadening its reach and bring back its after-school program in the fall.

The theater will be available for other community groups to rent, Shapiro said.

"We're hoping that other groups will see this pretty darn awesome space," she said.

Wednesday's open house, which is free to the public, will feature students singing "Down to the River to Pray" and speeches by staff and board members.

Attendees can also purchase tickets for "Music Man," which begins July 18, and "Little Mermaid," which begins July 25.

For more information on MYACT programs, visit www.mountainyouthact.com .

11903868
The Union Democrat
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