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Grant brings music to local youth theater program

By: Mike Koury | Farmington Press | Published November 4, 2015

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FARMINGTON HILLS — The Farmington Hills Department of Special Services Cultural Arts Division received a grant of $3,750 from the state of Michigan that will help fund the Farmington Hills Youth Theatre’s performance of “The Wizard of Oz.”

The award comes from the state’s Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, or MCACA, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Special Services Cultural Arts Coordinator Jessica Guzman said the money will fund the show’s use of a live orchestra, the first time that the Youth Theatre has enlisted one for a production.

“When we first decided to do ‘Wizard of Oz,’ we realized there was going to be some additional expenses that we hadn’t previously had,” she said. “Because of introducing the live orchestra, as soon as we realized we would have these expenses, rather than deciding not to do it, we wanted to take the challenge and look for additional funding to support it.”

The orchestra is a mix of both professional and high school students, which Guzman said is great because it gives young musicians additional opportunities to play music in a public setting.

“We’re getting young musicians the opportunity to have new experiences outside of the school’s orchestra, marching band, jazz band, et cetera,” she said.

The production features about 150 young actors from around Farmington, Farmington Hills and other areas, who have been rehearsing two to three times a week for more than two months. The theater, funded through ticket sales, cast member fees and donations, runs two full productions a year and has been running for the past 15 years.

Youth Theatre Director Melinda Sheatzley said they’re working with kids from ages 5 to 18, some who have never worked with a live orchestra.

“Each show we try to enhance our level of performance, and I think when you have a lot of music, it just makes it more of a theater experience,” she said. “It’s such a classic show that I think it bears having live music if it can. I think that’s what really enticed me to do that show.”

The theater’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” can be seen at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20; 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, and Sunday, Nov. 22; 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4; and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and Sunday, Dec. 6. Tickets cost $10. Children 3 and younger attend for free. All performances will be held at the Costick Center, 28600 W. 11 Mile Road.

For more information about the show or to purchase tickets, visit or call (248) 473-1848.