The Clay Cut Centre in downtown Haines City hosts both the adult and children's theater programs.
HAINES CITY – A few years ago, Kristy Moots took her two kids to audition for a show being performed at the Haines City Community Theatre.
It seemed like a great opportunity, she said, because most community theaters in the region tend to only need adult performers. There were fewer opportunities for children to get into local shows, outside of school productions.
“When my kids were a little younger, they had a show they were doing at the Haines City Community Theatre, and they’d been involved in theater for a while,” said Moots, who lives in Haines City. “But they didn’t really have a permanent program where they do children’s show every year. They had been doing shows at the Lake Wales Little Theatre more often.”
At that point, Moots – who was herself active with the Haines City Community Theatre – came up with an idea. Why not start a special children’s theater program that put the kids on stage, even if it was the adults making the decisions behind the scenes?
“We decided to do a children’s show, and it just blossomed from there,” she said.
It turned out to be the start of a program that continues to operate today, known as HCCT KIDS! It’s the Haines City Community Theatre’s own special summer program for young acting talent. And it’s proven to be a very popular form of summer activity for the kids.
“I think a lot of it is just the camaraderie that they share amongst themselves when they start to do the show, and that’s a trigger for keeping them involved,” Moots said. “They seem to have a lot of fun doing it, and while we’re rehearsing, you see them put more antics in their performance. We typically get the same kids each summer, and they tell their friends and so we get a few more — siblings who weren’t able to do shows in the past. And for whatever reason, our group of kids seem to get along very well and have become a tight knit group. I think it’s that friendship that rings through it.”
HCCT KIDS! just held auditions for their upcoming production of “A Pirate’s Life For Me,” a musical written by Craig Sodaro, with music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur. The play centers around Aristocrat Roger Goodman and his true love, Sarah Huffington. Problem is, Roger soon finds out that wealthy Sarah thinks he’s boring and would rather marry a brave, exciting and adventurous pirate. Determined to prove her wrong, Roger hires Long John Sliver to tutor him in the fine art of piracy.
This has become HCCT KIDS! formula for success: a combination of music, comedy, and pleasant frivolity.
Moots, who is on the community theater’s board of directors and heads up the children’s theatre, also co-directs the productions with her sister, Tracy Miller.
“This is our fourth year putting on a children’s theater,” Moots said. “We originally said, ‘Let’s do this one summer,’ and then we started doing it every year. The first year we did a musical, and the reason we chose that show is we happened to have a script, so we did ‘Snow White’ the musical.”
The second year, they did a play about Peter Pan, but didn’t feel it was quite as effective as the Snow White production.
“It wasn’t a musical,” Moots said. “It was a fun, but I think the kids enjoyed the musical a lot more.”
This year, Moots said, HCCT KIDS! tried to find a show with a healthy number of parts for boys, after doing a more recent production of “Annie.”
“We usually have a fair amount of boys that audition, so this year we tried to pick a show that had a lot more boy parts,” she said. “A lot of times our shows have been geared toward girls, like ‘Annie.’ “
“A Pirate’s Life For Me” seemed to fit the bill, since the show needs students ages 7 and up, and has a cast of 30 characters.
Performance dates for the show will be June 15-24, on Friday and Saturday evenings and with Sunday matinees.
“Typically we do our shows during the summer months, because the adult theater does three shows in their season,” she said. “They finish up in April, so we’ve been trying to do our auditions in the school year. I think we have a lot of fun. We’re pretty much self-sufficient. We do everything ourselves. We usually have costumes and whatever we have at the theater that we can use, but if not, we have a lot of parent volunteers who come out to help us.”
Haines City Community Theatre performs in the Clay Cut Center at 801 Ledwith Ave. in downtown Haines City. For more information, call the theater at 863-421-1893.

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