Children’s theater moving to Columbia Mall

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 | 5:20 p.m. CDT; updated 2:50 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Mall is about to become home to something unexpected: a children’s theater.

Theater Reaching Young People and Schools, better known as TRYPS, will relocate this summer to the mall off Stadium Boulevard near the Interstate 70 exchange. Remodeling began this week, and TRYPS hopes to start programs in the new location by the end of July.

The Columbia Mall location will provide “a wonderful opportunity to do community outreach,” said Jill Womack, artistic director for TRYPS. With space tight in the group’s current location on Old 63, TRYPS “sent out an SOS” to businesses in the area looking for a new place, Womack said. Katie Essing, general manager of the Columbia Mall, responded.

“TRYPS brings one more element into the overall merchandising mix,” Essing said.

TRYPS will be in the Target wing of Columbia Mall, in the former location of Garfield’s Restaurant & Pub. Since Garfield’s moved out, mall management has had difficulty finding a restaurant tenant for the space, citing problems of limited visibility and parking.

TRYPS’ new mall location will include an office, a classroom and storage space for the many sets and props from previous productions. The Little Theatre, which seats 60, will also be in the mall. As its name suggests, this theater is smaller than other performance venues used by TRYPS. The benefit will be greater flexibility in scheduling performances, allowing shows to be held over multiple weekends, Womack said.

Currently, TRYPS holds performances, theater camps and rehearsals at schools and churches in the community. For larger productions, TRYPS rents Launer Auditorium, which seats more than 500. Performances and activities in these community spaces will continue, Womack said.

TRYPS drew inspiration for its mall relocation from The Coterie Theatre, a Kansas City-area children’s theater. The Coterie Theatre is in the Crown Center, a shopping mall.

“One of the biggest things it does for you,” said Joette Pelster, Coterie executive director, “is help people know you exist.”

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