OAKLAND -- The small, volunteer-run East Bay Children's Theatre is celebrating its 80th year providing entertainment and education to dozens of East Bay schools.

It bills itself as the oldest continuously performing theater group in the Bay Area, with the mission of bringing live musical theater to low-income children. "That's the commitment we'd like to make -- to educate as well as entertain," said Ednette Chandler, who has been with the group for 26 years.

The nonprofit theater, which was founded in 1933 by a group of women from Piedmont and Orinda, puts on one play each year and takes it to public elementary schools in Alameda County that have at least 350 students. The schools must also be Title I schools, a low-income category that requires at least half of the students to qualify for free or reduced lunches.

In the early 1990s, the theater added an educational component, recruiting volunteer educators to put together a teaching packet that combines arts education and literacy.

The economic climate has made for less grant money, said Chandler, while the aging volunteer group means more hands are needed. The oldest volunteer is 93. Instead of visiting 18 schools per year, the group can only do 10 to 12.

The theater also relies on selling tickets to a few performances to raise money. There will be two performances on Saturday at the Oakland Museum of California, with shows at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. There will also be a show on April 6 at the Town Hall Theatre in Lafayette. This year's play is an original musical, "Cinderella: It's A Dog's Life!"


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For more information, go toebctonline.org.