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Workshop organizer finds home for theater productions at Grace in the Desert Episcopal church

Don Leonard is nothing if not resilient when it comes to bumps in the road. The art specialist at Pittman Elementary School had planned to use his first summer off from teaching to hold week long musical theater workshops for children 5 to 12. But he ran into obstacles that forced him to cancel the first of three sessions.

Why? The facility was sold.

The other two workshops — “Rappin’ Rapunzel,” scheduled for today through July 22, and “Horror High: School of Screams,” set for July 25- Aug. 12 — are still planned and taking registration.

They will be at Grace in the Desert Episcopal Church, 2004 Spring Gate Lane. The cost is $150 per session.

For more information, call 234-5122 or 577-6786.

Robert Couch, principal at Oasis Christian Academy, helped secure the original space and said Leonard was lucky to have found another.

“To secure a decent space at a low or no cost is very difficult,” he said. “Most facilities are closed to outside groups … (they) don’t want to take a chance on letting their space be used.”

Leonard, a published playwright, had been planning the workshops since December.

He’d checked into a number of places that could host them and settled on Paradise Church, 2525 Emerson Ave. It had ample space, including a 250-seat auditorium.

“It was nice to have access to a theater, because most of these kids don’t know what it’s like to be on stage,” he said.

When he toured it and sat down for final scheduling, the pastor told him there was a “remote possibility” that the building could be bought. Leonard thought nothing of it.

At the end of April, he learned that the facility had been sold, and his three workshops needed to find a new home … fast.

“I only learned about it because I had fliers waiting to be printed and had called him to verify addresses,” Leonard said.

He immediately set about phoning places but learned many were already booked up.

One of them, Grace in the Desert, came up as a possibility, but Leonard was hesitant and could only “visualize the children running around the pulpit.”

A tour in early May, however, showed him the large recreation hall on the campus. Things were looking up, and the two men shook on it.

Two weeks went by, and he didn’t hear a word. He approached Grace in the Desert again. That was a good thing, as his contact there had lost his phone number.

Things worked out, and Grace said it was happy to host the workshops.

“It gives us exposure. People see our facility and know it’s there for whatever events they have,” said Patricia Seay, church treasurer.

Then the bumps turned into a huge crack in the asphalt: Leonard’s musical director had to drop out.

“Most people would quit and say, ‘We’ll try again next year,’ ” he said.

But Leonard said the two remaining sessions will go on as planned with a maximum of 20 students, all of whom will have speaking parts.

“Rappin’ Rapunzel: A Hip Hop Fairy Tale” features a latchkey kid with big hair who dreams of fame and fortune as a rap singer. Can she attract the attention of a local music producer to make her dreams come true?

“Horror High: School Of Screams” revolves around low enrollment at Horror High, whose doors will close forever unless a group of misfit monsters can win a local talent contest to prevent foreclosure.

“When you see the look on a child’s face and the parents coming with flowers, you see there’s a real need for this,” he said. “These are the things children remember.”

Contact Summerlin and Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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