Although Catonsville Children's Theatre has a choreographer and two assistant directors, the company rarely puts on full productions. "Nick is not big on scripts unless it's a main stage production," Barbara said. "Kids get caught up in the script and forget to act. We let the kids create their own dialogue."

"There is no fear of forgetting lines," Nick said. "We've never had a kid get stage fright. They can stand in front of 150 people and look and behave with confidence. It's the power of self-confidence."

"This is for the child who maybe isn't the athlete," said Barbara. "Our kids are very creative and self-motivated. … We're unique in the philosophy we've found."

The drama group's productions also often defy conventions.

"The red-headed girl with the freckles does not necessarily get the role of 'Annie,'" Barbara said. "In the production of 'Godspell,' the role of Jesus was played by a girl and in 'Peter Pan,' we had two Peter Pans."

For Catonsville Middle School student Ryan Ritzes, 13, the theater group is a place where he can go to be himself. He first encountered the Goughs when he was in elementary school. "It was my mom who gave me the idea. I fell in love with it immediately. It's a lot of fun, and being on stage, you're not on the stage: You're on a street, in a bar, or in the bad guy's room … I am very comfortable being in front of people."

Along with at least 10 shows at Catonsville Children's Theatre, Ryan has performed in three musicals at school and intends to pursue acting professionally.

The upcoming production of "Grease is the Word" uses participants from the Saturday on the Hill and Organized Chaos groups. Choreographer Joanna Chilcoat-Fellows has developed four dance numbers for the 22 performers, and Nick is working with them to develop the dialog.

The Goughs are also looking to collaborate again with the Christian Temple to stage a future production of "Fiddler on the Roof."

"CCT is something local, a hidden secret," Barbara said. "We live here and love Catonsville. We cater to the youth, and that helps build a better community in the long run."

"What the Goughs do gives the children confidence," said Donna Van Dyke. "It's magic to see."

Catonsville Children's Theatre will perform "Grease is the Word," on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at Christian Temple Theatre, 5820 Edmondson Ave., in Catonsville. Cost is $2.

For information on the performance or Catonsville Children's Theatre, call 410-744-4365 or email