Stage Direction

The Glade Plug-in Girl dominates the scene.

In a room focused on improvisation, other theater student superheroes flaunt irregular powers, neglecting the common Superman personas and adopting more abstract personalities.

To the students attending a class in the Rainbow Company Youth Theatre program, embodying a scented device comes as no surprise.

“Rainbow Company is a theater experience designed to give professional training for teenagers and the very best theater performances for families,” says Karen McKenney, the company’s artistic director since 1992.

A committed atmosphere surrounds young people from 10 to 18 years of age who are accepted into the company’s ensemble student group. Limited contact with the children’s parents emphasizes the independence and responsibility required for such an obligation.

“We treat them like adults,” McKenney says. “They are given schedules, we have little parent interaction, and we sometimes have higher standards than university programs.”

For those accepted into the program through auditions every August, ensemble classes such as monologue studies and theater dance begin every Monday evening. Mandatory show participation occupies most other evenings.

Courses such as costume design and set design offer students a chance to pursue other interests outside of acting but still related to theater.

With so much time required to produce high-quality shows, the company’s members quickly develop time-management skills, often willingly sacrificing school dances or other social functions to attend classes and rehearsals at the Reed Whipple Cultural Center.

“Rainbow is kind of like ‘Fight Club.’ As in, ‘The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club,’ ” Chelsee Bergen, a Northwest Career and Technical Academy senior, says with a grin. “People outside of it don’t really get why you’re missing prom.”

A sense of camaraderie surrounds each member of the company because of its demanding schedule, and, despite duties attached to participation in the company, a passion for theatrical subjects keeps them moving forward.

In a city where most places attempt to accommodate people age 21 or older, the Rainbow Company, sponsored by the city of Las Vegas, strives to create a serious yet positive atmosphere filled with fun that will help students not only improve their talents but energize and excite them about theater.

“For a lot of kids, it becomes their second home,” Bergen says. “It becomes like a family, and you make some of the best, best friends here.”

Such dedication is being recognized this year as the company receives the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America’s Medallion Award.

In August, the Rainbow Company will hang the Medallion Award next to its other framed accolades. Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons presented the Governor’s Arts Award to the company in 2007 for leadership in arts education.

Other honors given to the Rainbow Company include Nickelodeon’s Parents’ Picks 2009 Award and the Park Association’s first place Dorothy Mullen Arts & Humanities Award.

“It’s a great place to be,” McKenney says. “I’m passionate about the program, I’m passionate about theater, and I’m passionate about the students.”

Open auditions are held for all of the five shows the company performs each year, providing an opportunity for all ages to participate in a professional theatrical production.

Those not interested in auditioning for the student ensemble have the chance to take six-week classes designed to provide them with an outlet for creativity and a foundation in various theatrical skills.

Classes vary in price from $36 to $70. For more information, call 229-6553.

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