Kathy McGuire has a simple belief: the performing arts can be beneficial to children. She’s seen shy children find their inner voices. She’s seen some grow to be leaders. Above all, she’s seen them memorize lines, blocking and choreography, showing the true talent that these children present.

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 4.19.00 PMGO-FAME Youth Theatre Company, based in Long Beach, began when the community requested an artistic outlet for children in the area, said McGuire, the non-profit’s managing director.

The program originally began at Gant Elementary ten years ago, she said. Eventually, it became so popular that middle and high school students wanted in on the action. Now, the program is open to participants between the ages of eight and 18.

“We saw that there wasn’t another company in Long Beach that was focused on doing professionally produced shows using only youth performers,” McGuire said. “We started GO-FAME to fill that need.”

One of McGuire’s favorite moments with the group is seeing the interaction between the teenagers and the children, she said.

Take, for example, the group’s current production of Annie Get Your Gun, now being shown at the University Theater at Cal State Long Beach. 

The character of Annie, performed by 18-year-old Sandra Carr-Richardson, leads a group of five younger children through the comedic song, “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly.” As Carr-Richardson marches along the stage, the little ones follow her, and it’s clear the group has great chemistry and that they enjoy working together.

“The older more experienced actors are mentoring and helping the younger both on the stage and while on breaks,” McGuire said. “The end of the year is filled with homework help.  The younger actors learn through modeling how to behave on and off the stage.  We love that this is a place that children make lifelong friends, years older and younger, from other schools and neighborhoods.”

One thing in particular that the Annie Get Your Gun children can look to Carr-Richardson for is her powerful alto voice during “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun.” One can’t help but sympathize as she longs for Frank Butler, her gun-wielding competitor who has made it clear that Annie isn’t the type of girl he’s looking for.

Even underneath a convincing hillbilly accent, the pain is clear in her voice as it softens when she sings lyrics like:

He’ll even buy a nightie/ For a gal who he thinks is fun/ But they don’t buy pajamas/ For Pistol packin’ mamas/ And you can’t get a hug/ From a mug with a slug/ Oh you can’t get a man with a gun.

Talents like these can circle back to the countless hours that GO-FAME performers like Carr-Richardson spend at rehearsal. On top of the dancing, singing and blocking rehearsals from the children, parents and volunteers also donate their time to create costumes and construct sets.

McGuire said these duties took 2,500 volunteer hours to prepare for Annie Get Your Gun.

GO-FAME is always seeking volunteers, McGuire said, and those interested can email [email protected]. The group also welcomes high school and college interns, who can learn about stage management, directing, choreography, costume design, set building and more.

GO-FAME produces two large, fully-staged musicals a year, along with three smaller studio shows. Audition information is available on www.GO-FAME.org. Annie Get Your Gun shows at the University Theater at Cal State Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., on July 12 at 2PM and 7PM, and July 13 at 2PM. Tickets are $15 for reserved seats and $12 for general admission. Tickets can be purchased online at www.GO-FAME.org.