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Posted August 6, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Family-friendly: New events at Strasburg Theater cater to a younger crowd

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Keely Tefft sings "Black Velvet"
Keely Tefft, 13, of Strasburg, sings "Black Velvet" during karaoke night at the Strasburg Theater on King Street. The event features spaghetti and karaoke every Monday evening. Rich Cooley/Daily

Sarah Decker eats a plate of spaghetti
Sarah Decker, 17, of Toms Brook eats a plate of spaghetti during karaoke night at the Strasburg Theater on Monday. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG -- Mounds of pasta and karaoke on Mondays. Muchos tacos and programs for youths on Tuesdays.

Organizers of the nonprofit group Strasburg Theater & Arts Centre are doing these events and more to provide entertainment for youths and their families.

"It's been really fun doing stuff like this, singing karaoke, some acting," said 17-year-old Sarah Decker. "I'm not really good at acting but I'm giving it a shot, but I'm better at singing."

Sarah also participates with the Strasburg Youth in Arts group, a division of the nonprofit, which she said became an outlet for her to work on her singing and acting skills. Organizers say she's one of the group's most faithful members.

Events conducted by the Strasburg Theater & Arts Centre and the Strasburg Youth in Arts take place at the Strasburg Theater at 151 W. King St.

Sarah said she likes the mood and setting of the theater and added that the people there are "very encouraging."

Sarah hadn't performed karaoke much before joining the new Monday night event, where she recently picked up the microphone and sang "Warning" by rock band Incubus.

The theater gives people her age not only a place to go and stay busy, she said. It also presents an outlet for children interested in arts who may not achieve high grades in school.

Strasburg Youth In Arts formed about three years ago. With a background in helping inner city youths, Margaret Struder set out to create an outlet for children to learn and appreciate the arts. Struder also set up the group in hopes of attracting students who may not have an extensive a background in theater or singing but still wanted to learn.

Youth In Arts started with nine children but now boasts more than 80 participants, Struder said.

"Earlier this year, we realized there's a need for all types of arts in this area, opportunities for the kids," said Gail Tefft, Strasburg Youth in Arts board president. "We've operated on a basis that people pay as they can and the owners of the Strasburg Theater have been very gracious in donating the space."

The partnership hasn't ended there. The theater owners also have donated food as well as lumber and other materials for the productions, Tefft said.

While the venue still hosts live bands on Friday and Saturdays and poker tournaments on Wednesday and Thursday each week, it also works with the nonprofit group.

"We're trying to build it up. I'm trying to support this organization; we're supporting ourselves," said Strasburg Theater co-owner Irene Trivoulides.

Struder and Tefft praised Trivoulides for helping, often sacrificing, for the organization.

"They really enjoy opening this up to the kids and they wanted to make this more of a community-based center," Tefft said.

But that's only one goal of the Strasburg Theater & Arts Centre group.

"We want kids to feel free to come in and try whatever type of art medium they wanna try without feeling pressured to have to perform to a certain level," Tefft said. "When kids come in to audition, they get a part."

"This is a great opportunity to do something for yourself and make the best of what you have in high school," Sarah said.

Tefft's 13-year-old daughter, Keely, joined the group about two years ago and first performed in "Annie." She later played Sandy in the group's performance of "Grease."

Keely also tried out her voice at karaoke and said that even if she makes a mistake, people in the group won't laugh at her.

But performance art isn't cheap. Organizers say the price of scripts for its performances, plus materials can cost in the thousands of dollars. That reason has prompted the theater and the group to hold fundraisers. Trivoulides said volunteers are needed not only to help put on the performances but also to serve on the board to oversee this growing organization.

The group plans to host a fashion show Saturday. Anyone interested in attending the event can donate school supplies which then go to benefit children in Shenandoah County schools, Tefft said.

A similar fashion show held at the end of May, in conjunction with town's Mayfest, benefited Strasburg Youth in Arts. Tefft said Deb, a clothing store in Apple Blossom Mall in Winchester, and other shops helped the group put on the event.

Starting in September, the group will host family-oriented events on the second Saturday of each month, Tefft said.

"The owners would like to have the community feel that this is a place that the community owns and can come in," Tefft said.

The new events that are already under way include all-you-can-eat pasta and family karaoke on Monday evenings. Karaoke runs for the children until 8 p.m. and adults can take over afterward. As Tefft explained, some of the older Youth In Arts children started operating the soundboard and working as DJs for karaoke.

On Tuesday, the theater hosts an all-you-can-eat taco bar and youth night, featuring contemporary Christian music, games and community-building activities.

The theater held an open house Sunday inviting the community to find out more about the group. The organization also sought more volunteers to help them, Tefft said. The organization used the board whose members served the Strasburg Youth in Arts, according to Tefft. But as the group expands, Tefft said they want to bring in new members.

For Struder, the group's goal remains simple.

"From the onset, I never wanted this to be about perfection or professionalism," Struder said. "I don't care how well they sing, I don't care if they forget their lines, I don't care if their voice cracks. What I care about is that they have fun and that they feel like this is a place where they belong."

"And no matter where they go in life, I want them to always remember that this was a place filled with people that loved them and believed in them and saw something in them."

Weekly features

Mondays: All you can eat pasta, featuring a variety of pasta and sauces, with family karaoke 5-8 p.m. (non-smoking) and adult karaoke at 8 p.m.

Tuesdays: All you can eat tacos and Youth Night, featuring activities 5-7:30 p.m. including contemporary Christian music, games, community building.

Prices: Adults, $7.50; Children under 12, $5; free for children under 3; family of four, $20, $5 for each additional family member

For more information on events, call the theater at 465-1777 or visit www.strasburgtheater.com.

For more information on the Strasburg Theater & Arts Centre and Youth in Arts programs or how to help, call the venue or visit www.staac.org or www.syia.org.

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