Maria Nichols, teacher at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, believes the audience is an important part of every show.

That is part of why the college’s next production is "Annie," which brings children to mind.

"When I recently directed ‘The Sound of Music’ for the Miami Little Theatre, I had more than 65 children attend the auditions," Nichols said. "The children were so talented that I ‘double cast’ the play."

Double casting means that she had two sets of children, each performing different nights.

"Somehow are people seem to have decided that college plays are not for us," Nichols said. "By doing a play like ‘Annie’ with lots of children and local adults, I hope to re-introduce them to just how good college plays are.

"It’s sad for college students to work eight to 10 weeks on a play and have a small audience."

Nichols had to go to the top, the college’s president Dr. Jeffery Hale, to get permission to open cast the play.

"This is another way of following Dr. Hale’s philosophy of improving relations between the college and the community," Nichols said. "Although the college students have top priority in casting, we need children and people of all ages."

Nichols enjoys working with children. She said it provides an opportunity for teaching them about more than acting.

While directing "The Sound of Music" she taught the children about World War II and is already planning to teach the children about the Depression while doing "Annie."

"This play takes place during the Depression and is very similar to what is happening today," Nichols said. "The play is full of optimism and I hope people who come to the performances will get some of that."

Although one thinks of children when thinking of "Annie," Nichols stressed the importance of the chorus in the play.

Members of the chorus play many different characters including the maids and butlers in the mansion of Daddy Warbucks, the poverty stricken in Hooverville, the city people in New York, the performers in the radio show and the members of the president’s cabinet.

"It’s important that we have a good reliable group of actors who can sing and dance," she said.

Having the students work with children can provide good experience for them, according to Nichols.

Assisting Nichols with the production of "Annie" will be Mary Susan Whaley, vocal director; Lee Dell Mustain, choreographer; Adam Compton, conductor, and Bill Flannery, accompanist.

The auditions for children, both girls and boys from 8- to 12-years-old, are scheduled at 2 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 p.m. Monday. For college students and area residents, the auditions are 6:30 p.m. Jan. 17 and Jan. 18. They all take place in the auditorium in the Fine Arts Building at the college.

The play will be performed in the same building on March 4 through March 7.