RICHLAND -- Paris Rodgers has big plans for The Academy of Children's Theatre.
As the new executive director, Rodgers hopes to stretch the talents of the theater group's young actors to include a bit of Shakespeare.
She took over the reins of ACT from Linda Hoffman, who retired last month after 16 years.
Passion is what has always driven Rodgers, and she is determined to instill that in the hearts of more than 200 students, theater techs, actors and singers who make up the troupe.
"Passion is the first thing we try to develop in the kids, because I believe it's the key to learning and excelling," said Rodgers, who lives in Kennewick.
She has plenty of performance experience that will prove beneficial for the group. She was Miss Tri-Cities in 1983, then known as Paris Page, and studied vocal training for five years at Brigham Young University in Utah before moving back to the Tri-Cities after she got married.
Rodgers has worked part-time as a vocal coach for ACT performers for about four years, and she teaches private voice lessons.
ACT board member Ginny Quinley described Rodgers as an accomplished, energizing goal-setter.
"And she's very excited to go forward with ACT's mission, adding new and different aspects to help ACT grow," Quinley said.
Rodgers would like to see the group pay off its building and finish its theater within 10 years.
"Most importantly, I want to see ACT remain the place to go to develop talent in young people," she said. "ACT is a unique organization in all of Eastern Washington because it's a children's theater for youth and by youth. Most children's theater groups in bigger cities have adults playing most of the roles. We strive to have kids play the adult roles as well as the child roles."
This year's play lineup includes Willy Wonka on Sept. 23, A Little Princess on Dec. 2, Treasure Island on Feb. 17, West Side Story on March 22 and Winnie the Pooh on April 27.
"We'll also be adding Shakespeare plays to our programs this year," she said. "I think its important to have kids be as well-rounded as they can be at an early age."
She also plans to make sure ACT continues its policy that no kid is ever turned away from taking various acting classes because the family can't afford the tuition.
"We grant scholarships and would never turn away a child because of that," she said. "We also have a new Hoffman Scholarship we're starting this year, in honor of Linda and her years of service to ACT."
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org