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Children's Theatre: Talking Rabbits and Exotic Plants on the Menu

The San Carlos Children's Theatre program, with Eron Block serving as Artistic Director, heads into its last few, hectic days of rehearsal before a pair of shows -- Velveteen Rabbit and Little Shop of Horrors -- open Friday at Central Middle School.


Naomi Bartoo found a home. Sam Borthwick may have found a career. By the end of the week, audiences at Central Middle School in San Carlos will have discovered a talented, entertaining group of young men and women under the direction of an energetic leader.

The San Carlos Children's Theatre program, with Eron Block serving as Artistic Director, heads into its last few, hectic days of rehearsal before a pair of shows open Friday at Central Middle School.

For the first time since Block joined the program in 2000, the company presents two shows in repertory: "Velveteen Rabbit," in the afternoon and "Little Shop of Horrors" in the evening.

"Velveteen Rabbit," written by Anita Larsen, plays at 1 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and again next weekend, while "Little Shop of Horrors," written by Charles Griffith (based on the film by Roger Corman, with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken), plays at 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and again next weekend.

Tickets are $12 each and can be purchased online (Little Shop of Horrors, Velveteen Rabbit) or at the box office.

Block directs "Little Shop," with the help of choreographer Daina Block and music director Theresa Ames. Melody Cole serves as guest director (it's her 10th season) for "Velveteen" and is assisted by Melissa Keith, with technical support from Jim Cole.

"We could not do any of this without Donna Avanzino (the theatre manager)," Block said. "She is a godsend and makes it happen all from behind the scenes."

Borthwick, a soon-to-be sixth grader, has a part in both productions, her 13th and 14th shows.

"I'm surprised I don't mess up that much," she said of trying to memorize two separate scripts. "I'll spend 30 minutes a night on one script and then 30 minutes on the other script. I love them all."

Bartoo, a Carlmont High grad, has been around since the beginning of Block's tenure and appeared in his first production.

"I love being part of the theatre," Bartoo said while sitting on the steps of Mustang Hall. "I didn't have that many friends in school and this feels like home. It's a part of me and my childhood."

Block promotes the company as part of an overall education, and will be working with the San Carlos School District to reintroduce the discipline into the system. He has grand hopes of creating a San Carlos Center for Performing Arts.

"There is a creative undercurrent in this city and people support the arts," Block said. "Redwood City has Fox Theater. San Carlos deserves its own."

The other side of the production features the parents of the actors. They volunteer for everything from head of costume design to serving on the board.

"He is a true gift to the city of San Carlos," said Sherri Glenn, who heads the make-up department. "It is an amazing program."

There are reasons people like Bartoo return to help year after year, even after reaching the age limit. It's always been a team effort, a joint production.

"It's made me feel like this is where I belong," Bartoo said. "Before every show I am always nervous and asking myself why I am putting myself through this again. Then I get through the first part and when it's done, I hear the clapping and remember this is why I'm here."

Henry Zatarain, who is calling the show from backstage, started taking classes, graduated into acting and, now that he's at Sequoia High, he still comes back to help as part of a program for backstage.

Sunday is Alumni Night, where anyone who wears ("just bring it if it doesn't fit" said Block) a T-shirt from any of his previous shows is cordially invited to attend an "Ice Cream Social" after the performance.

Central Middle School
Mustang Hall
828 Chestnut
Tickets: $12

"Velveteen Rabbit"
Showing at 1 p.m.
Friday, July 20
Saturday, July 21
Sunday, July 22
Friday, July 27
Saturday, July 28
Sunday, July 29

"Little Shop of Horrors"
Showing at 7 p.m.
Friday, July 20
Saturday, July 21
Sunday, July 22
Friday, July 27
Saturday, July 28
Sunday, July 29

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