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Lake Country Children's Theater (LCCT) was founded in 1983 with the mission to offer quality, live theater experiences to area children in order to foster appreciation of theater and related arts.

Led by the colorful, life-size mascot, Dugan the Storytale Dragon, the non-profit organization strives to keep live theater for children and families accessible and affordable.

Each year, LCCT offers three live shows held at Arrowhead High School North Campus Theater in Hartland that are most suitable for children ages 3 to 9 and their families. Past seasons have included theatrical productions, magicians, puppeteers, comedians, storytellers, musicians and more.

For the past 17 years, LCCT has also been offering an opportunity for local children ages 7-18 to audition and participate in a summer production by Prairie Fire Children's Theatre.

LCCT board member Patty Giuffre has been helping to run the program since the beginning.

'It's really an amazing introduction to theater for kids. It's wonderful to see the younger kids looking up to and working right along with the kids who have some theater experience. They all benefit so much from this week-long experience,' said Giuffre.

Into the spotlight

This summer's play will be 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and will take place June 20-25. Originally penned by William Shakespeare, the joyful romp of mistaken identity and pranks — all played out during a midsummer's eve — has been cleverly adapted into a musical, showcasing 70 young actors.

Auditions will be held at 12 p.m. on Monday, June 20, at Arrowhead High School North Campus Theater, 800 North Ave., in Hartland. Registration is limited to 120 auditioning students on a first-come, first-served basis. No preparation is necessary to audition, which will last at least two hours.

Parents are welcome to stay and watch. The cast will be announced at the end of the audition. Tuition for the week-long program is $40.

The audition and rehearsals are led by two professional actor/directors from Prairie Fire Children's Theatre, who will also play the roles of the mischievous sprite Puck and the colorful Nick Bottom. Rehearsals will be held from 12:30-4:45 p.m. June 21-24.

Performances will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, June 24, and 2 p.m. Saturday, June 25, at Arrowhead's theater. The community is welcome to attend; tickets are $4 each and can be purchased at the Hartland Piggly Wiggly the week of June 20 and at the door.

Catch the fire!

Prairie Fire Children's Theatre (PFCT) is a professional touring theater company based in Barrett, Minnesota and has been bringing a theatrical experience to communities across the upper Midwest since 1987. Prairie Fire offers a variety of original musical adaptations of classic tales with special twists.

The productions have roles for aspiring actors, singers and dancers, as well as for kids who want to gain some self-confidence and get a taste for what the theater is all about.

Throughout the year, PFCT sends two professional actors/directors to a community for a one-week residency. Local children fill the roles, and PFCT provides everything needed to rehearse the show for a week and perform the musical on Friday and Saturday.

Nicole Johnson has been volunteering her time with LCCT for the past three years. The mom of four children, Johnson regularly took her family to the shows sponsored by LCCT. 'I wanted to get involved because having live theater for children right in own backyard was important to me and I wanted to be a part of that effort to keep it going,' said Johnson, who lives in Oconomowoc.

Her daughter, Ellie, 11, has also participated in two Prairie Fire summer shows: 'Robin Hood,' and 'Jack and the Beanstalk.'

'Ellie has always been an outgoing kid, so I encouraged her to audition, and she loved it. It's a short and sweet introduction to performing live theater, and I am always amazed at how much they are able to do in just one week. The two Prairie Fire directors are so talented and professional. It's fun to watch them interacting with the kids. It really is a special program,' Johnson said.

Ellie is looking forward to auditioning for this year's Prairie Fire original musical, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.'

'Being in the shows taught me how to be brave and it was really fun to perform in front of people. The directors are really nice and fun. After the show I felt so proud and happy because we did it in just one week,' says Ellie. 'My advice for kids auditioning is don't be shy and really show your unique personality.'■

Rebecca Seymour is a freelance writer and photojournalist and author of 'Connecting With Wisconsin Wildlife.' She lives in Oconomowoc with her husband and two young daughters.

For more information about Prairie Fire Children's Theatre, visit prairiefirechildrenstheatre.com.

For more information about the Lake Country Children's Theater and the auditions for 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' visit lakecountrychildrenstheater.org.

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