Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Curtain up for First Christian Church youth group

  • For 40 young actors at First Christian Church, a summer of hard work is about to pay off.

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  • For 40 young actors at First Christian Church, a summer of hard work is about to pay off.
    The students, ages 5 to 13, will present "The Amazing Grace Race: In His Steps, in my shoes," a 45-minute production by Celeste Clydesdale.
    The group began rehearsals in June, meeting every Sunday from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
    "Some of the older kids in this group have been involved in all our previous three dinner theater productions," said Susan Ridgway, worship arts minister at the church. "We have to keep raising the upper age limit because they want to continue to be involved."
    Admission to the dinner and show is by suggested donation and proceeds go to help send the 4th, 5th and 6th graders in the group to SuperStart, a youth retreat held in mid-February every year in Tulsa.
    "They have music, lessons, games and lot of activities for the kids," said Brooks Wachs, children’s minister at the church. "It's kids from all over the Midwest and they pretty much fill the Mabee Center arena at Oral Robert University."
    Putting it together
    Ridgway and Wachs teamed up to spearhead this year's production.
    "We make a good team," Wachs said. "Music is not my gift."
    "And organization is not mine," Ridgway added.
    Each week's meeting has been focused on learning the 11 songs in the score.
    "We've had seven parents helping with the show," Ridgway said.
    "Maria Ortiz-Smith created a bible study lesson to introduce each song, for example," Ridgway said.
    Summer intern, Rachel Crockett, took charge of the actions to go with each song.
    Some of the songs were connected with service projects such as writing letters of encouragement to the sick and shut in or planting seeds and watching grass grow as a way of thinking about faith growing.
    "We're trying to connect fine arts activities and life lessons," Ridgway said.
    The message of the show is that the journey of life is like a race, but it's not about finishing first, it's about finishing together.
    "We talk about starting the race on the right foot and we talk about leaving a good path for those behind us," Ridgway said.
    Tell me more
    There are two performances of the show scheduled: Saturday, Aug. 11, with dinner beginning at 6 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 12, a matinee with dessert served at 2 p.m.
    Admission is by suggested donation, which is $7 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under for the Saturday evening performance and $5 for everyone for the Sunday dessert matinee.
    Associate minister Richard Crockett is doing the cooking and has pulled pork, baked potato, salad, roll and dessert on the menu.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Everyone loves it when Richard cooks, but if people don't want to eat, they can just come for the performance," Ridgway said.
    "We invite everyone in the community," Ridgway said.
    "It's hard to find quality family entertainment these days and we hope parents will bring grade school and middle school kids to see the show," she said.
    The dinner theater program is one element of First Christian Church's commitment to family and children.
    "We added the position of children's minister in addition to our youth minister at a time when many churches are cutting staff, because of that commitment," Ridgway said.
    Wachs, still in his first year as children's minister at the church has enjoyed seeing how much the kids enjoy music and performance.
    And after ten weeks of rehearsals, the student actors are ready to go.
    Phil Scott, senior minister at the church, has two foster children in the show and told Ridgway "I can't get them wound down after rehearsals, they're so excited."
    "This is a great way to encourage younger kids — the rehearsal process brings out the shy guys," Wachs said.
    "One of our shyest guys, who has worked really hard, did such a good job on his part last week that everyone broke into cheers when he finished," Ridgway said.

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