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CATS Teaches Life Skills Through Performing Arts

By Nicole Luna

“Theatre by youth, for youth” is the motto for one of the oldest programs in Arlington.

For the past 34 years, Creative Arts Theatre & School (CATS) has resided in Arlington with the purpose of educating children about performing arts.

 Producing director Merri Brewer said the work the program does is the same kind of work that is done with children for any activity.

“The idea is to make them better people,” Brewer said. “It’s not just about learning how to tap dance but learning to work with other people, learning perseverance, diligence, work dynamics—all the things to be a successful person.”

CATS provides a variety of yearlong classes like musical theatre, improv, and dance for students ages 3-18. They also offer a variety of summer camps. Instructors that teach classes have degrees in theatre.

After 27 years of being in the same location on Randol Mill, the program administration thought it was time to move to another location more suitable for the students. After a devastating fire burned their building, the move happened quicker than anticipated.

Although the fire was a tragedy for CATS, Brewer said they had to look at it like a fresh start. Before the fire happened the administration knew they wanted the move to downtown.

“We love this building,” Brewer said. “We love being in downtown. We think it’s very conducive to our work here, and you can see that the building lends itself to teaching children theatre.”

The E-shaped building used to be an elementary school, and it only has one long hallway. Along the hallway there are white ceiling lights shaped like petals creating a soft dim light. In the spacious rooms where students practice dance and theatre, the floor tiles are of different bright colors.

“Obviously there are things we are going to do to the building as we grow,” Brewer said.

They plan on building more dance floors and ballet bars but most importantly a theatre. CATS has seasonal plays featuring their students, but because the building does not have a theatre they have been renting facilities for their plays.

Students are involved in all aspects of the show in front and behind the scenes. Brewer said parents should expose their children to performing arts just like they would sports or any other activity.

She explains that at some point in a child’s life they are going to have to stand up in front of people and talk.

“They’re going to have to have grace under pressure, whether it’s for a job or performing a skill,” Brewer said. “CATS teaches all those life skills you want your children to learn.”

Brewer has been working at CATS for about seven years and says the best part of her job is watching her students grow and develop poise.

Their next production, “Freckleface Strawberry,” will be presented at Lamar High School through April 26-28.

Summer registration is now open.

 For more information on CATS classes or performances, visit