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by Judy Antell


   Kids are involved in drama classes throughout the city, but City Lights Youth Theatre occupies a special niche.  Rather than focusing on professional development, the group concentrates on building self-esteem and confidence.  Their mission includes offering theater classes to all children; at least half the students receive financial aid. They offer classes for ages 3-19, and students appear in their productions.

   Now in its 16th season, City Lights just moved to the Film Center Building, 630 Ninth Avenue, between 44th and 45th Streets.  Classes are also held at Claremont Children's School and the 92nd Street Y.
   While developing future actors is not the City Lights goal, their shows challenge the young students nevertheless.  The 2007 season launched with a production of The Laramie Project, at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre; teens from City Lights classes and professionals performed the Moisés Kaufman play about the town of Laramie after the hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard.  The second production, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, runs through March 4.

   City Lights believes that all children, regardless of their background, can benefit from, and participate in theater.  The huge range of classes includes Fairytale Adventures for pre-K, using games, stories, movement and song; Mini Musicals for grades 3-5; and Musical Theatre Revue for grades 6-12.  A new class this year, Acting Shakespeare, is for high school students.

   As a non-profit that offers need-blind admissions, and keeps ticket prices low ($8 for students, $12 for adults), City Lights has to raise money, and its annual spring benefit, on March 19, will be at Tavern-on-the-Green.  The event, which honors Kitty Carlisle Hart, and Lynne and Bill Zeffiro, features musical numbers by the cast of Broadway’s A Chorus Line.  Ticket prices start at $175.

   For more information, go to www.CityLightsNYC.org.

A scene from "Carousel"   

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