Center for Art and Education’s new youth theater group will give its first performance on April 8 at 2 p.m. at the King Opera House in Van Buren.

Rising Stars of Tomorrow youth theater group will present “Bedbugs” - a 45-minute play about a little girl and the tiny bugs living in her bed. Rising Stars is a new after-school program for children in kindergarten through the 12th grade.

Participating in the play are 15 Crawford County children and five student volunteers from Van Buren High School, said Jessica Fisher, the VBHS theater director and teacher who organized the CAE program.

“The program is meant to broaden the education of theater for all kids in the area, not just at the school district…so kids can develop an appreciation and love for (theater),” Fisher said.

According to a description of the play, “Marie is a little girl who likes to jump on her bed, but to the bed bugs being squished underfoot, she is the wicked witch who causes earthquakes.”

“It’s basically a little tug-of-war between the girl and the bedbugs, and we see who wins,” Fisher said.

“Bedbugs” is a simple script for those beginning students to learn the foundation of theater, Fisher said.

In the new CAE program, students learn theater basics such as stage position, character development, props and costuming, Fisher said.

“It’s really about giving them hands-on knowledge - I’m giving them the principles of theater and they’re executing it on stage,” Fisher said. “The focus is on their technique and on their education, not on the ‘wow factor’ of a presentation.”

Program participants meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at the King Opera House at 427 Main St. to learn and rehearse.

Fisher said the initial program is running through April 7, but there will be follow up programs in fall 2017 and spring 2018. A summer theater camp also is scheduled for July 10-14.

The program was made possible in part by a grant from the Fort Smith Area Community Foundation, an affiliate of Arkansas Community Foundation.