Charlotte Richter | Staff Writer
Twenty children performed in the Family, Morale Welfare and Recreation EDGE! production of the musical “Seussical Jr” while learning that every person is important, no matter how small the role or contribution.
Music Director and Choreographer Amy Bell said the purpose of the EDGE! (Experience, Develop, Grow and Excel) program is to instill confidence in children and bring the arts to people who might not have access to theater.
“With the message (of “Seussical Jr.”) it reminds people there’s no part that’s too small on the stage,” Bell said. “Every person is important. Without every person, whether backstage with sound and lights or behind the stage, there wouldn’t be a show — every part is important.”
Program volunteers and parents helped bring the show to life by contributing to costume creation, set design and organizational help. After auditions, children took ownership of their roles by learning their lines and getting into character.
Participants prepared for the show three hours per week. The children performed “Seussical Jr.” last week for their parents.
During practices and rehearsals, Director Marianne Tennant checked small details with the actors, technical work and the performance as a whole.
Tennant said part of the children gaining confidence as actors is knowing their characters well and how they change during the plot.
“We talk about who their character is with ‘oh, who do you think your character is?’ and they’ve got to figure out how to make it their own. It helps them be more comfortable,” Tennant said.
Eleven-year-old Layla DePolo portrayed one of the Bird Girls in the musical.
“The Bird Girls are very sassy, but I’ve already, in the past, played a few other sassy parts, so that was not that hard. It was also kind of girl-groupish, so I had to listen to a bunch of old girl group music.”
DePolo has performed in five shows with the EDGE! program, but she said her favorite was her first performance in “Alice in Wonderland.”
“I really like theater,” she said. “If I do more plays in the future, this will help me with other roles in case I play another part like this.”
She said her favorite things about “Seussical Jr.” were the colors on set and how the musical features two different worlds. During her performances, DePolo said she thought about her facial expressions and what her character should do, even when it didn’t match her personality.
Nine-year-old Brooklyn Baca, who portrayed Sour Kangaroo, said she also considered her
facial expressions on stage because, unlike her personality, the character she plays is an antagonist in the story. She said her favorite scene in the musical is the courtroom scene for the song performed by the cast.
EDGE! Director Christy Allie said the children built a sense of community throughout the months of preparing for the show. She and the other show directors agreed that the children made friends in the program, similar to how they found a sense of community in the theater in their own experiences.
Tennant said she hopes the students had a fun, positive experience. Bell said she wants
them to know they are loved no matter what.
“Whether they go on to Broadway, that’s not the point of (the program), but if they do that’s great, too,” Bell said.