Children’s Theater Still Stars in Fremont

by T. T. Nhu
San Jose Mercury News – April 18, 2003

StarStruck Continues to Shine

At a time when many community theatrical groups are in danger of folding, Fremont’s Star Struck Children’s Theatre has been mounting two to three successful shows a year.

”We always sell out,” said founder Lori Stokes, who also directs the productions.

Stokes, 47, who has a degree in theater, started the company in 1995 with a musical version of ”A Little Princess,” with her then 11-year-old daughter, Kristin, in the lead role. The shows are always musicals, among them ”Annie,” ”Babes in Arms” by Rodgers and Hart, and “The Wizard of Oz.”

Although Stokes is a volunteer, the group does employ a choreographer, vocal coach and lighting director.

”School House Rock Live Jr.!,” the latest production, is scheduled for this weekend. Auditions are required for the actors, who range from 7 to 17 years old. For two or three months, they rehearse a couple of times a week after school in rented spaces.

”I like being on stage with the lights behind me, ” said Rachel Nuno, 11, who has been in the company since she was 7.

Angela Matthews’ daughters have been with Star Struck for years. ”Starting with small roles, I’ve seen them grow in confidence and ability until they were able to handle major roles,” Stokes said. ”Money can’t buy the type of love and dedication Lori puts into nurturing each and every child involved in each play.”

For seven years, the children’s troupe has been staging musicals at Broadway West in Irvington, which has 80 seats. The run lasts three weekends, with 12 o 15 shows. The company also uses the larger 400-seat Ohlone College Theatre and has sold out that venue as well.

”There’s a need for this kind of family entertainment in Fremont. This is a big city, and people want to stay close to home to see a show,” Stokes said.

This year, the company plans three shows. The other two are Sondheim’s ”Into the Woods” planned for the summer and ”Honk!,” the musical tale of the ”Ugly Duckling” in the fall.

Star Struck, a non-profit organization, receives little financial support from corporations or foundations. One $5,200 grant enabled the group to purchase a sound system and 10 wireless lapel microphones.

The small profit from the three annual shows is plowed back into the company for future shows. Royalties, Stokes said, are among the biggest expense. The rights for well-known musicals such as ”Annie” cost $3,000.

‘School House Rock Live Jr.!” is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday at Mission San Jose High, Room C-120, 41717 Palm Ave. For information, call (510) 659-1319. Tickets are $8, $5 for students and seniors.