For the kids

In its first year, the Children’s Theatre of California (CTC) staged four productions, three of which were extended. It garnered 1,500 subscriptions—enough to sell out the 100-seat house in advance for 15 of 30 scheduled performances. And all four plays received largely favorable reviews.These vital statistics on CTC’s recently concluded first season put a smile on the face of producing artistic director Buck Busfield, who long had planned to launch a professional theater for children alongside his established B Street Theatre.

Of course, it’s not all good news. “I learned that running two companies, plus the touring Fantasy Theatre, requires a lot more managerial infrastructure than we had at the time the Children’s Theatre was launched,” Busfield admitted. “We’re putting that in place.”

As Busfield explained, CTC has two distinct audiences. “Weekends are general public performances: moms, some dads and their kids.” They come to the box office if the show has good word of mouth. “But Tuesdays through Fridays, we play to school groups, clubs and church groups.” These groups need to be contacted by the marketing team well in advance.

Busfield also learned that shows based on popular children’s books are easier to sell. The only CTC show that wasn’t extended was Still Life with Iris, an original play by Steven Dietz. “Next year,” Busfield promised, “all four shows will be based on books: Bunnicula, A Year with Frog and Toad, Beggars’ Strike and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Book titles have name recognition. Teachers and parents like that.”

Busfield added that the CTC’s name is sometimes misconstrued. “It’s called Children’s Theatre, but it’s theater for children, not theater by children.” The actors in CTC shows are grown-ups, and the sets often are more complicated than the B Street Theatre’s.

CTC’s second season opens in September and continues through May 2005. Subscriptions are $45 for children and $60 for adults. Shows are held at 2711 B Street. Call (916) 443-5300 for more information.