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Hlavinka, Davis take over youth programs

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By Brandon Mattingly

The Washington County Youth Actors and Bluegrass Kids programs are under new leadership, and new instructors Sue Hlavinka and Jolene Davis both see this community as a chance to continue their love of music and entertainment.

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Hlavinka (Youth Actors) is an Oregon native who moved to Kentucky in 2007 to be closer to family, but even after her family relocated, she stayed because she said the Bluegrass feels so much like home.

Davis (Bluegrass Kids), a native of Orlando, Fla., moved to Kentucky in 2003 and had a similar sentiment. She said she’s been particularly impressed with the initiative Washington County has taken with the arts in her short time in charge.

“I am so amazed that this community is so supportive. The parents and the volunteer groups really get involved,” Davis said. “I’ve never in my life of doing production seen that kind of support. That has got me leaving every day with a smile on my face.”

It hasn’t taken long for the kids themselves to make an impression either. Davis said the Bluegrass Kids, though initially shy, soon came out of their shell and have surprised her with the amount of talent and potential they already have. Hlavinka said working with the Washington County Youth Actors has been a similarly pleasant surprise.

“Working with the Youth Actors has been a privilege and a joy,” she said. “They are so eager to learn and they make teaching fun and exciting.”

Davis grew up playing violin and piano in Orlando during the growth of the Walt Disney World Resort, and even has claim to being one of the first females allowed to perform at the park. She taught music in the Florida school system for about 20 years, acquiring a masters degree in educational technology in the process.

Hlavinka also has 20 years of experience under her belt in theater, directing, stage managing and acting. She received a degree in theater from the University of Louisville this past May.

The two are performing duties formerly held by one individual, and they agreed that splitting the Youth Actor and Bluegrass Kids programs between two instructors will allow them each to maximize the quality of every show.

“The advantage to working specifically with one group of students is that I can focus all of my energy and attention on that group,” Hlavinka said.

“It helps you focus on one production at a time, because it’s a lot of work when you do the blocking, the lighting, the staging and working with the kids in smaller groups,” Davis said. “I think it will be better focused and hopefully even increase the quality of our shows.”

Both instructors are aware of the name the students at the Central Kentucky Community Theatre have already made for themselves, and they’re looking to uphold that tradition.

“I would like to continue the legacy of quality musicals that the students have been involved in thus far, and I encourage them to stretch their acting skills to levels they didn’t know they could achieve,” Hlavinka said.

Davis, who was exposed to Washington County through her role as a fiddler with the Honky Tonk Angels, said the main thing she wants students to come away from her class with is confidence.

“I want them to realize that they have an incredible opportunity to grow as a person through the acting process,” Davis said. “I think it builds a lot of confidence and their teamwork skills. There will be several kids in the group who will go on, and this will be in their life the rest of their life, and that’s fun for me too. I’m so glad that they have this opportunity.”

Both programs are already hard at work on upcoming performances, including Willy Wonka Dec. 13-15 and Finian’s Rainbow, Jr. May 9-11 for the Bluegrass Kids.

The Youth Actors are currently preparing for Jekyll & Hyde on Jan. 17-19 and Jan. 24-26.

“It will be an amazing show, so you will want to get your tickets early because it will definitely sell out,” warned Hlavinka.

Davis said that through just four meetings since she joined on board, two newcomers have decided to take part in the Bluegrass Kids, and she and Hlavinka both said they encourage anyone who’s considering theater to come out and give it a shot.

“I’d say that if they have an interest at all or are even just curious, they should arrange to come and sit in with us one class. We always welcome new people. I could use four or five more right now, because I’ve got some parts I could cover,” Davis said with a laugh.

“We try to ease them into roles that they will be comfortable with and they can grow from that.”

Hlavinka agreed that roles can be found for even the most fearful of the stage.

“If a student doesn’t necessarily want to be up on stage, there are plenty of other opportunities to be involved in theater,” she said. “Set design, construction, scenic painting, costume design, costume construction, lighting design, prop development and stage management are all vital areas that are a part of the theatrical family and we welcome a variety of interests.”

For more information, visit the Springfield Opera House during class time (3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.)