Following the morning matinee of “The Sound of Music,” students were able to ask questions of the cast and crew during a talkback.

There’s something magical about live theatre — the thrill of the characters coming to life, the interplay between actors, the energy of the audience. Theatre is living art, and for some area students, they got to experience that for the first time on Feb. 13, during a morning matinee of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” at Bethel College.

More than 870 students, parents and teachers attended the production, packing the house for the cast’s first performance of the show’s run.

Morning matinees at Bethel have been providing area students with an affordable theatre experience for more than 15 years. Some past shows have included “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Jospeh and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Charlotte’s Web,” to name a few.

“The objective is to expose children at a younger age to live theatre at a significant cost savings,” says Barb Franklin, who works in theatre arts at Bethel.

While general admission tickets typically range in price from $10-15, students attending a morning matinee pay just $5 per ticket, with parents and teachers admitted free of charge.

Part of the experience includes a talkback following the show. This question and answer session with the entire cast and crew allows students to gain a broader perspective of what goes into a theatre production.

At this particular talk back, some students asked about rehearsals or how the set was designed. Others inquired about how the children in the cast got their roles and how costumes were designed. One even asked about what a stage manager does.

“I’ve felt the magic of theatre working many times during those Thursday morning matinees,” says Director and Bethel Theatre Department Chair Richard Young. “I can’t help but think that some in our Thursday morning audience have been inspired to try theatre themselves someday.”

Michelle Conway, a second grade teacher at Kennedy Primary Academy in South Bend, heard about the show from a parent of one of her students. She was excited about bringing a group of 141 to a Bethel production for the first time.

“Some students had never seen a live show,” Conway says.

For Jessica Herbster, an English teacher at Community Baptist Christian School in South Bend, morning matinees have expanded the horizons of her students.

“I think it’s a great experience for them to be exposed to quality verbal and public speaking communication,” she says. That’s why she’s been bringing groups to morning matinees for six years.

Students from as far away as Berrien Springs, Mich. attended the production, including a large group of home schooled students.

“For this show, the audience was split pretty evenly between public, private and home school students,” Franklin says.

The next opportunity for students  to experience a morning matinee at Bethel will be Tuesday, April 8 at 9:30 a.m. Corresponding with spring break, the Genesians, Bethel’s traveling drama troupe, will be performing “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day,” in the Everest-Rohrer Fine Arts Center/Auditorium on Bethel’s campus. For tickets and information, call 574.807.7080 or visit Bethel