The Franke Center Youth Theater

Since 2004, The Franke Center Youth Theater has been providing extraordinary theater experiences for young people!  The Youth Theater stages plays offer performance workshops and perform educational outreach throughout Calhoun County. Co-directors Jennifer Conley Darling and Allison Ebner, along with their many devoted volunteers, are committed to promoting education, creativity, imagination through the performing arts.

During a 2020-2021 season that began with much success and ended in uncertainty, the Franke Center Children’s Theater was able to provide arts education and production opportunities to Kindergarten through 12th-grade students due to the generous funding from the Battle Creek Community Foundation, Binda Foundation, Marshall Community Foundation, and Marshall United Way.

“We want to take this opportunity to let the community know how valuable these foundations and organizations are in allowing us to bring imagination, creativity, and experience to our area youth”, says Jennifer Conley Darling, The Franke Center’s Producing Director. “Without their support, we could not do what we do.”

The whimsical production of HONK kicked off the season in October of 2019, showcasing the talents of over sixty K-5 youth. In February 2020, FROZEN had record box office sales and served almost seventy 4-9 grade youth. Despite restrictions due to Covid, the program was able to provide the high school students a dramatic outlet as well.  In June 2020, CLUE featured the talents of sixteen 9-12 grade youth and was the first-ever online production produced by The Franke. This season, the program served over 180 students.

The Youth Theater Arts Education wing completed its fourth year of operation. Partnering with Marshall Public Schools and Albion’s Big Read, this season’s Extracurricular Workshops for K-9 students featured an “audition” workshop and a “dance for musical theater” workshop hosted by Jocelyn France and Beau Hutchings respectively. The In-School workshops brought in teaching artists from Chicago to work in the classrooms for an entire week on creative writing, visual art, and improvisation. The teaching artists worked in core curriculum classrooms at Harrington Elementary and Marshall Middle School. The curriculum is designed to complement MPS teachers’ existing classes and shows students a new way to think about vocabulary, reading, and writing. In the 2019-2020 school year, this program served over 275 students.

“We look forward to bringing our students and surrounding communities more great programming in the 2020-2021 season. Please stay tuned for announcements about our plans,” says Allison Ebner, Director of Youth Theater.