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SHARMOORE

Once upon a time, an organization was created to magically transform children’s stories into a theater production.

SharMoore Children’s Productions is a nonprofit theater arts group that travels to area schools, teaching children the importance of the arts through writing and live performances.

Its mission is “to empower children to believe in themselves by giving voice to original and creative ideas.”

It is fulfilled through activities that combine the creative writing of hundreds of students with the performances.

“We teach children to believe that their words go beyond themselves,” said Sharon O’Brien, co-founder and director of SharMoore. “We want kids to learn to love art from a young age, because this helps us sustain art in our society for years to come.”

Through the Stories that Soar! program, the organization visits schools throughout the year, bringing its most featured actor, the Magic Box. Children are told that the Magic Box has an appetite that can be satisfied only by eating stories. The box lives at the school for about two weeks, and children “feed” it hundreds of original stories. From those, a handful are selected and performed at the host school by SharMoore actors and musicians.

“Most writing that students encounter comes from school assignments; (their work) gets put in a basket, marked with a check, and ends there,” O’Brien said. “Children aren’t always given the leeway to be creative and to see that their writing has a purpose.”

Stories are brought to life through singing, dancing, acrobatics, comedy and drama. The actors decide the presentation, but are careful not to compromise the integrity of the original story. Students aren’t aware that they are chosen until they see their stories performed.

“Kids are so engaged because these are their stories, or their friend’s stories, and they take ownership of that,” O’Brien said.

At the close of the school year, a “Best of Stories that Soar!” is performed along with a silent auction.

The organization, which was incorporated in 2005, operates on a $40,000 annual budget that comes from grants, sponsorships, host fees from schools and individual donations.

“The hardest part about being a new organization is showing why this is so important,” O’Brien said. “People like to see statistics of how many schools we went to, and how many stories we received. But the real proof that this program is working is that it changes lives, and that isn’t always so easy to show everyone.”

SharMoore Children’s Productions offers a curriculum and will come to schools to interactively teach theater through writing, acting and technology.

O’Brien hopes to see the project grow throughout the state and perhaps beyond. The organization is creating an interactive Web site so children can submit their stories online and watch performances.

If money were no object, O’Brien said she would like to see artistic education adopted on a broader scale.

“As a society we export our culture and yet our education system doesn’t support creative educational thinking,” she said. “Our society is an innovative society and our project prepares the next generation.”

- Ashley Nowe

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SharMoore Children’s Productions

5833 E. South Wilshire Dr., 975-9970

www.storiesthatsoar.org

w Founded: 2005, by Sharon O’Brien and Sonia Teder-Moore

w Misson: Bring children’s original stories to life through artistic mediums

w Budget: $40,000

w Fundraiser: silent auction

w Board officers: Glenn Coffman, Andres Cano, Robin Hiller, Michael Martinez, Diego Navarrette, Sharon O’Brien, Dana Pitt and Sonia Teder-Moore

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