South Florida is blessed with an abundance of theater for kids, but none tops the Actors' Playhouse, which takes children's theater very seriously. For starters, the playhouse, one of the area's major professional companies, has created an entirely separate children's division, led by peripatetic artistic director Earl Maulding, that produces a full season of plays for children as well as provides classes and workshops. Maulding and Executive Director Barbara Stein really aim for excellence, hiring experienced professional actors and designers to staff their children's shows. Then there's the company's National Children's Theatre Festival, which holds a national competition for new children's plays and stages a spectacular weekend event for the winner's world premiere. Finally, there's the context of all of this: Children who come watch the plays often discover they want to attend the main-stage adult fare the playhouse offers. Some kids from the training program end up on stage themselves in the big playhouse musicals like this season's The Sound Of Music. All in all, the Actors' Playhouse not only offers the best in children's entertainment but it also provides South Florida with an important cultural service by nurturing the audiences of tomorrow.

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