Juneau's young actors will bring stone soup and Christmas pageants to life this winter.
The Juneau Youth Actors begin rehearsals for their performance of "Stone Soup" on Aug. 26. The Northern Light Junior Theatre's students start rehearsing "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" On Sept. 9.
Both shows are based on classic children's books rewritten in play or musical form, and are open to all interested kids in grades 5 through 8. "Pageant," adapted from Barbara Robinson's book, tells the story of a group of unruly bullies who join a town's annual Christmas production and help the town rediscover the true meaning of Christmas. "Stone Soup," a traditional fable, teaches the value of sharing through the interactions of a group of soldiers and townsfolk.
Registration is taking place now for both programs, which will be directed by local artist and musician J. Althea.
"There are no auditions," Althea said. "Anyone ... who can maintain the appropriate focus, behavior and attendance requirement is welcome to participate."
For the last four-and-a-half-years, Althea's Douglas Youth Drama Association worked with about 100 children on plays such as "Archie and Pals" and "The Night the Forest Cried."
"Both plays (were) at the Palace Theatre and we had to turn people away because the Palace Theatre only seats 100," Althea said. "They were both really successful plays for us, and seeing where we needed to have that growth is part of the reason I'm making the move I'm making."
A change of venue to Northern Light United Church and Gruening Park allowed the program to expand, she added.
Shows for this year's productions were selected for their appeal to students and parents.
"For this age group, one-act plays are good in terms of the rehearsal time that they have to make a commitment to," Althea said.
Any number of children can register, as more parts can be added.
"If we have 15 speaking parts and we get 20 kids, we can always add in a few extra villagers or soldiers or something," Althea said. "If there's more kids that show up than there are written parts in the script, you can always add in a couple of speaking parts."
The "Stone Soup" production will include several music numbers, and some choreographed movement. "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" will also integrate music, but is not technically a musical.
"You have kids who are in the little Sunday school choir who are singing Christmas carols," Althea said. "(But) to be defined as a musical, you need to have songs that are plot expository. There aren't any in this."
In producing the plays, cooperation is emphasized.
"A kind of ensemble teamwork feeling is pretty crucial to me in working with the kids," Althea said. "It's like the spoke in the wheel. If one spoke is broken, the wheel is weakened. Having things like a set painting party with pizza reinforces it."
Both productions will rehearse two nights a week, with performances for "Stone Soup" on Nov. 2 and 3 and "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" on Dec. 7 and 8. Althea can be contacted at 586-4933 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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