ANTIOCH -- John Ballesteros grew up — fairly literally — in the theater.

So, starting a company seemed a natural move.

For several years, Ballesteros and wife, Lee, mulled over the idea. It all clicked when Frank Ballesteros, his father and longtime community theater director, retired from the stage.

That's when the curtains rose on Drama Factory.

"We got together with some others from the old Storyland (theater company) days, created a nonprofit corporation and (formed) a board of directors," John Ballesteros said.

He has big plans for the new nonprofit group.

"We will not only offer different titles but original titles," he said, adding that they're aiming for "less Brady and more Addams-type of theater."

In addition, the new group will host a number of other art programs, including film showcases and dance events.

Ballesteros said growing up in theater -- and now running his own company -- has its benefits.

"It made me a more confident and articulate person. It promotes abstract and critical thinking."

While he hasn't had formal training, Ballesteros is confident sharing the tools of the trade.

"I have been in theater my whole life. It was pretty much already instinctive by the time I was 10.

(Drama school) would have been like taking breathing lessons," said the Antioch native and 1985 Live Oak High School grad.

And the couple wants to unplug their young actors.

He and his wife will help the incoming thespians with "understanding others and themselves."

"(We want them) to disconnect from the cyber world for a while and interact with their peers in a creative, hands-on endeavor," he said.

The theater troupe will also get instruction in the theater arts, including acting, stage craft, lighting, body movement, voice development and makeup.

"Our approach to all the performing arts is dedicated to keeping the arts alive and prospering within our community.

We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to participate in cultural activities of one form or another," he said.

For a lifelong theater patron and participant, Ballesteros said his favorite aspect of the stage is the "culmination of the various aspects of theater arts into the final product, the live performance."

For now, Drama Factory doesn't have a specific set of shows planned but will simply have "multiple projects in development" every year.

The first production to hit the stage is "Magic Flute."

"I love Mozart, and I wanted something grand and fantastic with comical characters," he said. "I wanted to avoid the usual fare, and offer the students something with teeth."

Auditions are set for 7 p.m. July 21 and 22 at the Nick Rodriguez Community Center, 213 F St. in Antioch, where most of the productions will take place. The plan is to also take a few shows on the road. Participation cost is $75.

"We plan to have live accompanying music to some of the scenes, a serpent and dancing animals (since) this is Mozart's fairy tale opera."

Ballesteros is excited about the tryouts, which he called "almost the best part of everything."

"Meeting all the people; seeing what people fit best in what parts."

Lee Ballesteros emphasizes that Drama Factory will not just be a children's theater group, however. "We will be a multi-facet production company focusing on all forms of performance art.

"We are just starting out with a children's play as homage to Storyland Theatre."

Storyland Theatre, founded in 1968, was the first theater company in Antioch, John Ballesteros said.

For more information, call 925-695-4123, check out the Drama Factory page on Facebook or email thedramafactory.org@gmail.com

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