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Theater Spotlight
The Acton Cooperative Theater

A Cooperative Children's Theater

The bright basement rooms of the Acton Congregational Church are bustling as 34 children between the ages of 5 to 8 years old begin to settle down for rehearsal. This is the younger cast for the Acton Cooperative Theatre's inaugural production: "Disney's 101 Dalmatians". The older cast, featuring twenty six 8 to 10 year olds, will be rehearsing later this morning. Music Director Ruth Bendig gets the children up on their feet to do voice work, asking them to yawn loudly and stretch up to the ceiling, something the kids clearly enjoy doing. And that is what is at the heart of this young theatre: bringing kids and adults together to have fun and to create something together.

The ACT Dalmatians younger cast

"I always believe it's for the kids," Lynda Burgess, the ACT's Founder and Artistic Director says. "I'm a mom, too, and my children and I share a love of theater. It's so much fun to work with this age, as a lot of them don't come in with any theater experience, so it's great to see the end result. Sometimes there will be kids at auditions who won't say a word and then, by the end of the rehearsal process, they stand up on stage with such pride and confidence. I love to see that transformation!"

Although the children do audition to be in the ACT's shows, each child does get a part, an aspect of this younger group which is very important to Burgess. "I wanted to create a theatre that was all about the kids, that grabs their excitement, their interest, and their enthusiasm to create a quality show. So while they're having fun and enjoying the social aspect, they themselves are transformed by the experience. It's amazing to see!"

The ACT has five founding members on the board and has an energetic group of talented parents eager to help with the cooperative aspect of this theater. Burgess says, "It provides an increasingly rare opportunity for them to be directly involved in their child’s activities and interests and the children love to see their parents get involved. The cast and their families become a community working together toward a common goal."

In addition, Burgess has brought in experienced junior high and high school students as mentors to work with the children. Mentors play theatre games, help with the non-readers, and help review lines and choreography with the cast.

The ACT Dalmatians older cast

"For me, it's wonderful to work with so many talented and engaged individuals, both children and adults. And they're all here in the community so I not only get to see them at rehearsals but when I'm running errands around town as well. I just love these kids! And it’s so clear that they love being involved with a company that allows them to express themselves in a positive way. Now I know what it’s like to get up and love going to work."

Burgess plans on doing two shows a year as the organization is in its beginning stages. Their next show will be "Disney’s Alice in Wonderland", open to children in grades K-6, to be presented in November, 2011. Auditions will be held in August. For more detailed information, visit their website or contact Lynda Burgess at 978-760-2577 or by email.