Children’s Musical Theaterworks-Bringing Theatre To The Valley’s Youth

Apr 14, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Lorie Lewis Ham, Theatre

by Lorie Lewis Ham

If you have a child interested in theatre Children’s Musical Theaterworks (CMT) in Fresno might be just what you’ve been looking for. The company was started in 1996 by Joel Abels (StageWorks Fresno) to create a place where kids and teens could come together to share in the magic of theatre.

“CMT is dedicated to providing a quality theatre experience for younger performers,” said Skyler Gray, CMT’s current artistic director. CMT’s goals are centered towards educating young performers and giving them a professional theatre experience from which they can grow as performers and individuals. “We are the premiere company for young adults in the Central Valley and pride ourselves on creating exceptional theatre where the values are so high that you forget they are kids! CMT allows children and teens the ability to express themselves in a creative and safe environment. This allows not only their imagination to flourish, but their whole self.”

CMT's production of Cinderella

Skyler got his own start in theatre at CMT as a child. “I started off as a performer in the company when they did not have enough boys for one of their productions. From there I caught the bug and started doing productions all around town.”

Executive Director of CMT Judy Stene first became involved as a parent volunteer when her daughter was a performer with them, but her belief and enthusiasm for what theater training brings to our youth outlasted her daughter’s involvement. Judy was on the first board of directors when CMT became a non-profit in 2000 and remained on the board until 2005 when she became the executive director. “CMT became a non-profit and found our home at the Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium by continuing the legacy of the Fresno Children’s Playhouse which was started in the 70s,” shared Judy. “That theatre company disbanded in the late nineties but still had the lease at the Memorial – and CMT was proud and happy to be able to continue what they had started.”

Skyler believes that theatre is very important to a community–those that volunteer, those that perform, and those that attend the shows. With no salaried staff, Skyler stated that without their volunteers CMT would not be able to survive and produce the quality of theatre that their audiences have come to expect. “Theatre not only brings the community together to share in the productions themselves, but also allows the community’s youth a safe place to create. Theatre gives the community a place to forget the troubles of the day and escape for a few hours and enjoy the talent of the kids, teens, and adults that make up their community.”

CMT’s season begins each March and ends in December. The process for deciding what shows they will be producing each season is quite extensive. First, they have to make certain that any shows they choose are smart and appropriate for their audiences and performers. Secondly, they want to choose shows that present an artistic challenge for the company and a challenge for their performers. “CMT believes that to grow in theatre, one must constantly challenge and stretch themselves,” shared Skyler.

CMT's production of Les Miserables Jr.

The range of CMT shows has done is very diverse. “We have developed a strong relationship with Disney and premiered the pilot versions of Winnie the Pooh: Kids and The Little Mermaid, Jr.,” continued Skyler. “CMT also had the recent honor of premiering the new musical Yo, Vikings! in March. CMT is also dedicated to producing the classics and shows that our audiences are excited to see including this years productions of Jekyll & Hyde, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and White Christmas.” Last season they also produced Les Miserables Jr. and received great reviews.

CMT's production of Camp Rock

Brand new to CMT this year is The Undergound @ CMT. This is a wing of Children’s Musical Theaterworks that acts as an outlet for its older performers, according to Elizabeth Wettstead, Marketing Director for CMT. The Underground @ CMT allows CMT’s older performers to take artistic risks and produce new works that they would not be able to make in CMT’s Mainstage Season. They will be doing one production a year for performers ages 18 to adult. The Underground @ CMT is an innovative branch for CMT to expand its artistic development and provide the Central Valley with new and exciting theatre. This year’s production will be the Valley premiere of Spring Awakening on stage from June 29 to July 7.

The Underground @ CMT will also be home to the Fresno Playwright’s Festival. The Fresno Playwright’s Festival, or FPF, will be a yearly festival dedicated to the development of new plays and musicals. This festival will feature works in progress that will expose Central Valley audiences to the process of new play development and production. Submissions are accepted until June 1, 2012 and may be submitted by all artists. More information can be found on their website.

Over the past year, attendance at CMT shows has averaged 200, which Skyler stated is a general increase from last year, “which is a good sign of the economy turning around.”

CMT also offers acting classes and school performances. They hold open auditions for all of their shows and auditions are coming up again in May. More information can be found on the CMT website and on KRL’s local auditions page.

Watch KRL for reviews and information on all of CMT’s upcoming shows. We are excited to see and review Spring Awakening in June. Tickets can already be purchased for this show on CMT’s website or by phone 866-973-9610. They can also be purchased at the box office one hour prior to each performance. Their productions are at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Downtown Fresno 2425 Fresno Street.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.



  1. White Christmas Presented by CMT | Kings River Life Magazine - [...] Irving Berlin songs. Stop imagining, and go to the Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium theatre, where Children’s Musical Theaterworks is presenting…

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