Toledo’s Children’s Theatre Workshop (CTW) presents a student-directed show, The Last Five Years, February 4-6. The musical explores a five-year relationship between a novelist and a struggling actress. While it may not sound like a production for a children’s theatre group, it’s exactly the challenge 17-year-old director Lyric Clifton-Bowen wanted to take on.
Clifton-Bowen is putting on the show as part of CTW’s Collective program, which “incorporates sophomores, juniors and seniors,” says Executive Artistic Direction of CTW, Aimee Reid. “They think about what kind of theatre production they’re excited about and then they have to start with establishing and managing resources, budget work, project management and scheduling.”
Taking the reins
Currently in its third year, The Collective program is designed so that the student director has complete control of the production from beginning to end, while still having the help of professionals like Reid. “I’m still here if things go off the rails,” Reid says. “But really, this is the practice of real theatre leadership and students get to have an experience with people they trust.”
Clifton-Bowen chose to put on The Last Five Years not only because of its musical numbers, characters and story, but because it’s a show she never thought she could take on just a few years ago. “I’ve always loved this show, but I’d never seen myself able to do it,” she explains. “The cast is small, the show is long, but I love the way people feel about this musical and how it tugs on your emotions.”
The importance of creativity
The Children’s Theatre Workshop purchased the iconic Ohio Theatre in 2020. Reid, a theatre artist herself, says the creativity she sees and experiences at CTW is not only a joy, but it’s necessary. “As an adult, we often set creativity aside,” Reid says. “And then we all wonder why we’re so sick and sad! Creativity is a vital part of a person’s life.”
She hopes that all her students, like Clifton-Bowen, will leave CTW and continue to be creative, even if it’s not in theatre. “The ability to build something for yourself, but also do it for others, it’s a very primal need,” Reid says. “We want to connect with others and theatre is just built like that.”
Clifton-Bowen agrees, citing theatre as one of her greatest outlets. “You have a creative outlet and people who believe in you,” she says. “I can see the way CTW has changed people — it’s shaped their personality and their leadership skills.”
Clifton-Bowen is a shy person, but now she is confident stepping up to direct this production. “In theatre, there are so many things you’re capable of,” says Reid. “There are young kids who feel like they don’t have a place or how to use their voice and to watch them grow into leaders is amazing.”
For showtimes, tickets and more information, visit www.ctwtoledo.org.