By SHERIDAN ROY
The learning does not stop over the summer for youth involved in local theater programs. In Southington, there are a number of programs that keep kids moving, socializing and exploring different stories and characters.
Several productions are right around the corner, and young actors and actresses will show off what they have been practicing for the last several weeks. Others are diving into rehearsals for shows coming up in the fall or winter.
The Southington Youth Summer Theater consists of four different programs based on age: juniors (grades three through five), worklights (grade six), footlights (grades seven and eight) and spotlights (grades nine through 12).
“In the elementary program, we focus on being comfortable on stage. Middle school, there’s a little more discipline, more learning about what it means to be on stage, more memorization,” said program supervisor Oliver Kochol. “In the high school program, we push them more artistically, and it’s more advanced.”
The junior program just came off of their production, “The Good, The Bad, The Musical,” and the worklights program just completed their showing of “The Trials of Alice in Wonderland.” Now, the focus moves towards the footlights and spotlights.
The footlights will perform “Frozen JR” at Kennedy Middle School on Friday, July 19, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, July 20, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. There are about 40 youth in the program.
“It’s been great so far,” said Kochol. “It’s a really fun story, and the kids are excited to play the characters from this iconic movie.”
Leap of Faith
On Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27, at 7 p.m., the spotlights will perform “Leap of Faith,” based on the 1992 movie with Steve Martin, at Kennedy Middle School. About 50 youth are involved in the program. Kochol described the show as a “modern day ‘Music Man.’”
“The program overall is kind of a building block,” said Kochol. Many of the youth in the younger programs stay with the organization all the way through high school. Kochol, along with many of the program’s staff, are prime examples of that. “By the time they leave, they’re ready to take on anything.”
Mary Poppins JR
This year, Southington’s neighboring town of Plainville will be host to the No Boundaries Youth Theater’s production of Disney’s “Mary Poppins JR.” NBYT attracts young actors from over 60 towns and cities in the state.
The team of about 40 teens and children will perform on Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, July 28, at 2 p.m., at Plainville High School. They began practicing there on July 1 and have just four weeks to master the performance, including music and choreography, and helping to make some of the props and costumes that will be used in the show.
“Each summer, we do one big musical that we put together in just four weeks,” said executive director Darren Farrington. “We try to choose something that is fun for everyone.”
“Mary Poppins” was one of the most popular Disney films of all time, and it played for over 2,500 performances on Broadway.
The “junior” version of the play is a shortened, slightly simpler version of the full-blown Broadway musical, and Farrington said that is suitable for the performers as well as their families and friends in the audience.
Founded in 2010, NBYT was selected by Connecticut Magazine as “Connecticut’s best children’s theater” in 2017. Last year, the group changed its name from “New Britain Youth Theater” to “No Boundaries Youth Theater” to reflect its widespread acceptance of children from all towns, with all abilities, to be involved in a variety of ways both onstage and off.
“The name change was a recognition that we are open to children and teens anywhere, of all abilities. We are accepting and inclusive,” said Farrington. “We are not solely a special needs theater, but we welcome anyone who comes our way.”
Farrington said theater is a vehicle for everyone to be included. At one point, NBYT introduced some programs and classes specifically for children and teens with special needs, but learned from the children and from parents that they would rather be integrated in with everyone else.
“It’s such a good experience for everyone to work together as a team,” he said. “In addition to rehearsing and preparing, all cast and crew members learn that theater builds social, emotional and academic skills.”
City of Angels
Heading towards Meriden in Southington, The Arts at Angeloria’s offers a variety of group and individual opportunities in the arts as well as seasonal performances and events of all genres. They host several theater camps over the summer, and are just now coming off of their 2018-2019 season with the completion of the jazz musical, “City of Angels.”
Looking ahead, the 2019-2020 season will kick off with “Hitchcock Halloween” in October in the fourth collaboration with a Hartford-based theater organization. That will lead into “She Loves Me” in December, “On Golden Pond” in February, “Bed, Breakfast and Broadway” in April and finally “Mamma Mia” at the end of the season.
“As a school for the arts, we have an increasing number of high school and middle school interns working with us on everything from lighting and sound to costumes and set design,” said executive director Lori Holm. “This is in addition to opportunities for youth on stage as well. These students learn from our team of practicing professionals in the fields of theatre arts and music.”
The Southington Community Theatre is just coming off of their production of Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka,” and now look ahead to their November production of Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men.” Auditions for the show will be held Aug. 25-26, from 7 to 9 p.m., at SCT Hall, 1237 Marion Ave. in the Marion section of Southington. All ages and abilities are welcome.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@Southing-tonObserver.com.