Brylee Elmore has a long history on stage – from high school through college – which led her to start offering music theatre classes at Mulvane’s Set Free Dance Studios four years ago.
Given the growth among those classes, Elmore saw the opportunity to pursue a dream — bringing a children’s theatre to her hometown. Elmore is set to realize that with the launch of the Derby Children’s Theatre (based at 838 N. Baltimore Ave.) this coming October.
“There are many theatres in Wichita, but we don’t have one in Derby. Since Derby is constantly growing, I think there is definitely a need for a children’s theatre. It’ll be more convenient for Derby families and it’ll give more kids in our community a chance to shine,” Elmore said. “I believe the music theatre class will continue to grow because we have some amazing, talented kids in Derby and the surrounding areas.”
Derby Children’s Theatre is intended to be a performing arts academy – offering musical theatre, singing, dancing (including tap, ballet, jazz and little ballerinas – for ages 3 to 6) and acting classes to youth ages 3-18. Classes are slated to start in October, with the musical theatre group set to learn and perform Disney’s “Frozen Jr.”
On top of classes, the Derby Children’s Theatre will also be a community space available to rent for birthday parties and other small events. Packages include princess and superhero parties, but Elmore noted any number of themes are available upon request. Packages will also include one hour of instructor-led fun while tables, chairs and instructor materials will be provided.
Currently, Elmore works as an elementary teacher at Andover eCademy, but she has several years of experience teaching music theatre and dance on top of that. In addition to her class in Mulvane, Elmore has directed and choreographed musicals at the Derby Recreation Center – where she’s also taught dance – and Wichita’s Music Theatre for Young People (MTYP).
Elmore studied dance at Oklahoma City University and Wichita State University. Professionally, she was part of the American Spirit Dance Company and performed as a singer and dancer in the Moulin Rouge Theatre at Worlds of Fun. She also performed as Cinderella in a production put on by Ottawa University while being part of several musicals through MTYP, Music Theatre of Wichita and Crown Uptown Theatre while growing up in Derby.
“I hope to give kids in our community similar performing opportunities that I had growing up. I enjoy teaching music theatre and working with so many talented kids. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my passion with others,” Elmore said.
With Derby Children’s Theatre, the plan is to put on one production each school year. The musical theatre class (5-7 p.m. on Mondays) will start in October, with plans for two performances to be held in March.
All other classes will be offered in two sessions, with the first session running October through December and the second session held from January through May. Classes will be scheduled between 4:30 and 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. on Saturdays.
“There are many benefits to being in a musical, such as active participation in the arts, improving literacy skills, becoming a confident public speaker and gaining critical thinking and problem solving skills. It also gives kids an opportunity to make friends with other kids in our community that share a love of music theatre,” Elmore said. “I hope our students gain lifelong skills, amazing friends and develop a love and passion for music theatre along the way.”
Right now, Elmore is having the space at 838 N. Baltimore (in the El Paso Village shopping center) renovated, but plans are for classes to begin Oct. 5.
COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into the plans – especially as Elmore first started looking at spaces this past March. The goal was to start classes in June, but she adapted and will continue to adapt.
Elmore said she missed her students and music theatre too much to hold off any longer, pushing forward with plans for a fall opening. Given the ongoing pandemic, she noted she has created health and safety protocols for DCT to keep students and family safe. There will also be a virtual option offered for all classes through the remainder of 2020, while private lessons are also available. For Elmore, though, she is ready to fully open the doors.
“Derby Children’s Theatre looks forward to providing the Derby community and surrounding areas with opportunities to perform in musicals and develop singing, dancing, and acting skills,” Elmore said.
Registration and enrollment for classes will be open starting Aug. 5. Forms can be found on the DCT Facebook page, while any enrollment or other questions can be sent to email@example.com or call 316-519-0083.