CFCArts offers safe and accepting summer youth theatre camps in Central Florida

Central Florida Community Arts is creating a safe space in the performing arts for LGBTQ+ families through their summer camp programs.

The programs offered are open to all children, 4 to 18 years old, and aim for all who attend to feel accepted.

“The most important thing to us at CFCArts is that kids walk away from the experience understanding that the arts are a place for everyone and developing a deeper love for the performing arts,” says Leah Porrata, CFCArts’ youth theatre artistic director.

The programs aim to not only help children grow in the performing arts but also to find an accepting place in theater.

“We have absolutely no discrimination about who joins our camps or our programs. Whether that’s in terms of what the family looks like or what the child looks like, we have students of all gender expressions, of all identities, using all the pronouns, so that’s very important to us at any age,” says Porrata.

In order to provide a safe space for the children CFCArts gives all their staff training while ensuring they have aligned values.

CFCArts offers 18 different summer camp programs, each with different focuses student performers can choose from. Students are able to choose a program geared toward singing, acting, improv comedy and more.
A majority of the camp programs are full day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with aftercare available. Pre-K through second grade camps are only half day programs.

“We don’t turn anyone away on the basis of financial need or anything like that, we have a lot of scholarship opportunities. As long as the student wants to be there and the desire is there, we will find a way for them to be there,” says Porrata.

The camps are separated by age group and are curated by CFCArts to be developmentally appropriate while teaching them new skills.

The CFCArts Youth Theatre program thrives at giving each young performer the tools needed to become a successful and confident lover of the arts.
This youth theater program at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center offers a variety of different levels and troupes to help find the right place for your child.

Junior Companies group starting at Pre-K to second grade is targeted to the youngest performers. The Companies group — third grade to senior year — is designed for actors that want to experience a big part of a production but may not be comfortable just yet for a speaking or singing role.

For the young actors that are ready to take that next step, the program also offers Junior Troupe starting from third grade all the way until senior year. For the children seeking to pursue the performing arts in higher education or as a career, Troupe is offered too, third grade to 12th is accepted, sometimes sixth grade to 12th depending on the show’s content.

As you can see, CFCArts has made these different troupes simply to provide inclusivity to all young Central Florida actors seeking to learn more. Not only do many children feel welcome here, but many families as well.

Married couple Richard May and Walter Allen were introduced to CFCArts last March where they signed up their daughter, Anya May-Allen, for the show “Aladdin,” with the performance of the show in May. The two dads first volunteered with CFCArts in “Aladdin” and they quickly felt welcomed and embraced as a same-sex couple and family. The couple met in college 29 years ago.

Allen says the couple has been in the theater their whole lives. Before moving to Florida three years ago, Allen was the executive and artistic director of a Youth Theatre in northeast Louisiana. Working with his husband, May was also an artistic director for a year and enjoyed designing costumes and directing the youth theater shows.

At the time of Watermark’s interview, CFCArts was working on its performance of Stephen Sondheim’s story of classic fairy tales, “Into the Woods.” The musical was created in 1987 with music and lyrics written by Sondheim and book written by James Lapine. May is the costume designer for the show and Allen is the assistant costume designer. Allen says the way their partnership in the theater works is his husband pulls all costume pieces and ideas together and Allen is there for any pieces that need to be stitched, altered or sewn.

“We’ve learned to work with each other, we balance each other out,” May says.

The couple said what they love the most about CFCArts is that the program is very accepting of their family.

“Being a same-sex couple also while raising a little girl is very different. You don’t see a lot of those. And we quickly loved the accepting nature,” May says.

May even explained that as the couple began collaborating with CFCArts, they were given a list of preferred pronouns for each of the kids in the program so that they could be addressed properly. This is just one example, May says, where this young theater program supports individuality.

Looking at how far the two have come, Allen says they were never allowed to talk about their relationship or really felt comfortable in the theater at the start of their professional careers.

Before finding CFCArts, attendance at shows from other theaters went down as parents of the children or spectators found out about their marriage. Allen says even the number of kids wanting to audition fell.

It dawned on Allen recently how supportive and welcoming this young art program is. Allen added that ever since the family was introduced to the theater kids and staff, he was immediately taken back by the sense of normalcy and acceptance they finally felt.

With their little one only being five, the two say that CFCArts has helped continue to develop her speech and communication skills. Their daughter has no fear of socializing with the other kids, and the couple has observed this since joining the group.

Allen says that even filling the application out for CFCArts, they had a good feeling about the troupes. Allen highlighted a section from the paperwork that made them feel it would be a safe space for their little one.

“[The application] had a big section about inclusivity and that they do not tolerate bullying or exclusion, and they live up to that,” Allen says.

The two dads said they are grateful that they have found a place where, as a family, they can do what they love together. One of the problems Allen realized after long days in the theater, is that they did not want to miss out on their little one’s childhood. They say CFCArts has been the perfect way to still be in theater but also watch their child develop as well.

“We quickly realized that we were going to miss her childhood if we stayed in those roles because we were there all the time. I mean that was our role, to be there all the time for the sake of the kids,” Allen says.

CFCArts has given this family the luxury of growing together while also doing what they love most.

CFCArts summer programs run from early June to the last week of August, with two full productions being audition-only opportunities. Students in grades three-six can audition for the Elementary Musical Performance Camp, which is producing “Seussical” this summer. Older students can audition for their Advanced Performance Camp to star in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Both shows will debut at the end of the month after two or three weeks of preparation. “Seussical” will run June 28-29 and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will run July 26-27, both shows will have three available showtimes.

If your child has a love for the theater, CFCArts provides a welcoming environment that could be a perfect fit for your little one. For information on applications and signing up, please visit

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