An Evening with Kelli O’Hara’ to benefit OCU’s Meyers Theater for Young Audiences

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An Evening with Kelli O’Hara’ to benefit OCU’s Meyers Theater for Young Audiences

Original plays would teach children about American history, former presidents

By Sandi Davis

Join Oklahoma native, Tony-award winning actress and Broadway.com’s Star of the Year for 2015 at “An Evening with Kelli O’Hara,” beginning at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 29 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Center.

The gala will benefit the Meyers Theater for Young Audiences in partnership with Oklahoma City University.
The Meyers Theater for Young Audiences is the brainchild of Sandy and Stewart Meyers. They want to create a place where performances are aimed at teaching children American history, something that many schools don’t emphasize any more.

President George W. Bush appointed Sandy Meyer to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts 11 years ago. She had the opportunity to work with the Kennedy Center’s Touring Theater for Young Audiences.

“I had never done anything like this before,” Sandy Meyers said in a recent interview in a Nichols Hills coffee shop. “It was gratifying to work with one of the best theaters in the country.”

The Kennedy Center group would do projects like a retooling of “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” aimed at children. The troupe had to be small enough to travel the country in a van and toured the U.S. to expose children to theater.

The Kennedy Center troupe visited Oklahoma City three times, at theaters at Bishop McGuinness High School, Putnam City North High School and the final year at Civic Center Music Hall in 2012.

“The budget was cut and the program stopped,” Sandy Meyers said.

By this time, Sandy’s husband Stewart Meyers had become interested in continuing the youth theater program in Oklahoma, but with one big difference.

“We put a lot of thought into it,” Sandy Meyers said. “We thought Oklahoma City University was the perfect spot for a children’s theater.”

OCU and the Meyers have worked together to bring live theater to Oklahoma City area students. The couple decided to do a gala to raise enough money for an endowment for a real children’s theater at OCU.

“We want the theatrical department to write original scripts and then perform them for school children in grades 1-5,” Sandy Meyers said. “We want the scripts to be about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as well as outstanding Americans, presidents, great men, things like that.”

Meyers said since civics isn’t taught in schools anymore, these plays will teach as well as entertain.
“Laura Bush wanted plays written about our early presidents – Washington, Jefferson, even Teddy Roosevelt,” Sandy Meyers said. “The Roosevelt play is based on a book written by former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating.”

“It’s wonderful to watch children come to life as they watch actors perform these plays and we felt doing it at OCU would be very rewarding.”

Eventually, Meyers would like to see troupes from OCU travel statewide to present original, historical plays and eventually have the program be self-sustaining.

The Meyers would love to have a theater especially for children at OCU with seating for about 1,000.
So, they hope the gala will be well supported and well attended.

“We started planning, and OCU got Kelli O’Hara to perform. She was happy to do it to help have a children’s theater in Oklahoma,” Sandy Meyers said.

O’Hara got her vocal training from the legendary voice teacher Florence Birdwell. She has done off-Broadway and Broadway plays and been nominated for Tonys, Drama Desk Awards, Outer Critics Circle, Drama League and Astaire Awards, but her take on Anna Leonowens in the reboot of “The King and I” got her a Tony award last year. Birdwell was in the audience.

The gala begins with a reception and cash bar at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinner with wine at 6:30 p.m.
O’Hara performs following dinner.

Tickets for “An Evening with Kelli O’Hara” are $200 each. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.okcu.edu/meyers or call (405) 208-7000.

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