Nibley's Children's Theater is
24 this year but still 'kids only' on stage
By Ranae Bangerter
April 17, 2006 | NIBLEY -- Special to the city is a
production that involves only children performing on
an outdoor stage. Now in its 24th year, the Children's
Theater has been entertaining audiences with adapted
plays to include many children.
"My children were in it for two years, this will be
the 24th year," said Sandra Larkin, children's theater
The children's theater includes many children from
"Last year we had about 125 [children], it jumps quite
a bit every year because of the growth," Larkin said.
Rehearsals start two weeks before the performances which
gives the children eight practices before the show.
"I think it's good for the kids. It gives them a sense
of accomplishment," Larkin said. She also said that
it gives children some activities to do in the summer
instead of sports. "[It] broadens their horizons to
see if they like it, to see if they like drama."
The city's theater is different than most, because
it includes only children. Jessie Datwyler, original
director of the children's theater, said other cities
have community-types of theater productions that allow
for adults to act on stage as well, but Nibley's theater
is entirely for children, ages 5-17.
The children's theater is also different than most
productions because it is performed outside in an amphitheater
instead of in a building. They practice in the Old Town
Hall and first performed on grass, then a wooden platform,
and now a cement stage.
Datwyler said they have performed an original play
each year, such as: "Hansel and Gretel," "Alice in Wonderland,"
"Pirates of Penzance," "12 Dancing Princesses" and a
"Utah Celebration." Plays are adapted to include the
multiple children and auditions are held for speaking
Datwyler said that she wanted to give children a chance
to learn theater. She also believes strongly in letting
children learn other things to do.
Both directors agree that the biggest impact of the
children's theater is it brings the community together.
Datwyler said huge amounts of sewing are involved because
all of the costumes are sewn by volunteers. She added
it gives the community a sense of pride and the idea
that they could feel ownership along with everyone else.
"You sewed that dress ... you put up that scenery,"
Datwyler said about the community volunteers helping.
Larkin, in her second year as director, runs everything
for the production whether it is music, scenery, acting,
or organizing the 20-plus parent volunteers. Before
Larkin became the director she worked closely with the
original director, Datwyler, who is now a resident of
"I was [Datwyler's] assistant for one year to find
out how she ran it," Larkin said.
Datwyler is a teacher at White Pine Middle School
in Richmond and said her distance from her home to the
school was one of the reasons why she moved to Smithfield.
She originally began the production as something to
do in the summer, when there was no school. But now
she is starting a children's theater in Smithfield,
where they will have their city celebration in May,
which is no longer a summer project for her.
The production this year for Nibley will be an original
production, "Peter Pan's Runway Shadow," which will
be performed on Thursday and Friday of Heritage Days,
June 22 and 23.
"It's the center of the Heritage Days, and makes the
community join together" Larkin said.