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Family 'can't imagine' YouTheatre going under

Luke and Evelyn Umphlett say YouTheatre has blessed their family. Luke and Evelyn Umphlett say YouTheatre has blessed their family.

FLAT ROCK — Evelyn Umphlett and her husband, Carl, may have more reason than the average couple to cherish their children. They worked so hard to have them.

They endured five years of infertility and unimaginable heartbreak.
"My husband and I were not able to conceive on our own," she said. "I miscarried 12 times so not only could I not get pregnant but then I couldn't carry the pregnancy. When the infertility drugs worked and I got pregnant, I would miscarry."
They had reached the end of the road.
"The infertility doctor said there was nothing medically we could do for you," she said. She was no longer producing eggs, the doctor said. They began to look at adoption.
"A month later we had a spontaneous pregnancy," she said. "After the doctor picked his jaw off the floor," he sent her to a high-risk doctor. He diagnosed the problem as blood clotting that was choking off the placenta and theorized that if she took blood thinners she might be able to carry the baby to term. It worked. Nine months later, Samuel was born.
That was only the beginning. At age 3, Samuel developed a severe form of multiple chemical sensitivity; he was basically allergic to the world. Ten years later, Samuel is much better. He can go out in public and has been able to join YouTheatre classes at Flat Rock Playhouse with his brother, Luke.
Luke, the first actor in the family, won an award playing Winthrop Paroo in Hendersonville Little Theatre's production of "The Music Man." Other kids told him about the Flat Rock Playhouse, and a marriage was born of ambition and opportunity. He got a role in "Peter Pan" in the fall of 2011.
"It was our first experience and it was fabulous," Evelyn said. "Everybody, the entire staff of the YouTheatre — it couldn't have been a better experience. We all just wanted more. Luke did the Christmas tour and had a blast, an absolute blast. So at the start of the new year, Samuel wanted to take Claymation."
The Umphletts are homeschooled because of various medical conditions — the boys' little sister, Eden Elaine, has Down syndrome. The Playhouse has been a blessing, their mom said, because of its nurturing environment and professional teachers.
"Luke took seven classes up here," she said. "Luke loved it all. He loved to sing, he loved to dance, he loved to act. The only place anywhere in this entire state probably is right here, where they offer it all. We can come to the YouTheatre and Luke can get everything, and pull it all together.
"So Claymation was a good experience for Samuel. He still has his set of challenges. He was accepted, he was valued, respected — I can't even begin to describe the amount of self-esteem and self-confidence and emotional growth, social growth that this door has opened for them."
The whole family got involved.
Last January, Luke and his dad were cast in "The Boxcar Children," a YouTheatre performance at the Playhouse Downtown.
This fall Samuel, 15, got a role in "I've Never Seen Another Butterfly," another YouTheatre show.
"He was welcomed," she said. "He was surrounded by kids of all ages who accepted him, who loved him and who were good to him, who treated him like every other kid, joked with him. He met a girl that was about his age and they became friends."
Evelyn Umphlett says she cannot put a price on what the Playhouse and YouTheatre have done for her children. Eden Elaine, who is 11 years old but the size of a kindergartner, is in a YouTheatre children's class.
"It feels good as a parent to know when you drop your child off to a class or activity at the YouTheatre that they're going to be surrounded by positive people, positive friends, positive role models, great awesome teachers," she said. "They're not only learning a lot and getting great experience but they're good people to be around. Everybody that we've come into contact with at the Flat Rock has been kind."
Supporters say the YouTheatre is an underappreciated component of the Playhouse that would be missed if the Playhouse closed. It offers free classes to Boys & Girls Club children and sliding scale fees so no one is turned away, Robert Danos, a YouTheatre dad whose daughter is in "The Nutcracker," told the Flat Rock Village Council this week.
Evelyn or her husband, a Lake Lure police officer, drive the children from their home in Columbus to Flat Rock for classes. She does not want to think about the Playhouse closing.
"We're up here six, seven days a week, because we choose to be, we want to be," Evelyn Umplett said. "I can't even imagine what our life at home would be like if that happened. Literally they've got classes every day. They look forward to it."
Luke is one of the 24 YouTheatre kids performing in Chase Brock's "Nutcracker."
"Whatever he's doing he has fun," his mom says. "It doesn't matter if he's an extra or the lead, he's going to go in there and do his best and give it his all, so it's all been positive and fun for him."