Bonnie Chaney arranged a little surprise for her son Connor, 10.
"The first words I heard out of her mouth were, 'You're going to California!' " Connor said.
Without telling her son, Bonnie had submitted a videotape of Connor's reciting "The Cremation of Sam McGee" to the National Youth Storytelling Olympics, and Connor had been chosen out of several hundred entrants as one of 12 national finalists. "I didn't even know I was entered in this one," Connor said.
"I saw a little notice in the Empire," Bonnie said. "We had the video from last summer, and thought, 'What the heck.' "
Connor is the son of Bonnie, who is the budget analyst for the City and Borough of Juneau, and Greg Chaney, who is a planner with the city's Community Development office. He is a student in the fifth grade of the Juneau Community Charter School, where there are more performing opportunities than in public school, he said.
"We do lots of violin performances," said Connor, who has been studying violin for two years. "And we have a Biography Bash where we pretend to be someone who made a difference in history." Last year he portrayed a Japanese who united Japan in medieval times. This year he chose American frontiersman Daniel Boone.
Connor enjoys costumes. For performing the "Cremation of Sam McGee," a popular Gold Rush ballad written by Canadian author Robert Service, he dons a checkered shirt, a leather vest and a prospector's cap. His favorite lines from the ballad are:
"I took a hike because I did not like
To hear him sizzle so."
He learned the "Cremation" from and for his father. "It's one of his favorite poems, and he taught it to me," Connor said. Another main performance piece is the poem "Black Water Hattie," the tale of a swamp witch set in bayou country.
Connor has taken acting classes with Star, Perseverance Theatre's summer program, and studied with actress Anita Maynard-Losh. For Concert in the Park appearances last summer, he recited the "Cremation" and also performed the opening scene from William Shakespeare's "The Tempest," impersonating seven characters.
"He likes to perform; there's no doubt about it," said Bonnie Chaney.
"I just like when people applaud," said Connor, who "definitely wants to go into theater" when he grows up. "I really like Shakespeare," he added.
Connor will compete with the other 11 finalists in the National Youth Storytelling Olympics in Hanford, Calif., April 5 and 6.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.