Seated on the edge of the Lyric Theatre stage Thursday morning, director Billie Harvey addressed the two dozen cast members of this weekend’s children’s production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory musical.
    If you gesture, gesture big. Stay in character even when you’re waiting your turn to speak. Smile.
    Harvey, who is the Bangs High School theatre director, is directing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a production of the Lyric Theatre’s Putter and Roxie Jarvis Kid’s Workshop. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 28, and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 29-30.
    The Willy Wonka production is for grades 7-12, and a variety of communities are represented. A younger group — grades 3-6 — is working on a production of Tom Sawyer, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4 and 2:30 p.m. Aug. 5-6.
    “They’re fun,” Harvey said of the children’s workshops. “I get to work with everybody’s kids instead of just my own (Bangs) kids. I get an eclectic group. Everybody brings different talents and knowledge.”
    Cast members’ experience vary from seasoned to none at all. Harvey said she gets to see the young actors blossom. “It keeps me fresh,” Harvey said. “I learn something new every time I do a show.”
    Lyric Managing Director Eric Evans said the children’s workshops give children who might have difficulties in their lives a chance to do something new and experience the community that is theatre.
    Evans referred to a child from another town who “just needs an opportunity.” School personnel from the child’s district made sure he got to Brownwood to be part of the workshop. The child received a partial scholarship to attend the workshop, and school personnel made up the difference, Evans said.
    “The kids get to experience something they’re not going to get anywhere else — a chance to come into the theatre community with a group of other kids their same age and be able to produce something that’s pretty spectacular — Willy Wonka in this case.
    “They’re finding themselves investing in the whole community of what theatre is. When you live and breathe with people on the state day after day after day, that community becomes something extra special, and that’s what’s taking place with them — something pretty nice, actually.”