Teens shine in ‘Into the Woods’

December 29, 2008

By Staff

Keaton Whittaker (left) stars as Little Red Riding Hood and Ryan Hotes is Jack in Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE production of ‘Into the Woods.’ Photo by Jean Johnson Keaton Whittaker (left) stars as Little Red Riding Hood and Ryan Hotes is Jack in Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE production of ‘Into the Woods.’ Photo by Jean Johnson

Village Theatre KIDSTAGE TeenSelect presents “Into The Woods,” running Jan. 9–18 at First Stage Theatre, 120 Front St. N.

“Into The Woods,” based on the book by James Lapine, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, tells a story that brings to life several favorite fairy tale characters in a brand new way.

Featuring the talents of local youths from seventh to 12th grades, KIDSTAGE reinvents the story of the baker and his wife as they learn they’ve been cursed by the witch next door and are sent on an adventure to gather the special objects to break the spell that will allow them to have a child.

Although many wishes are granted, these characters begin to understand that the consequences of their actions and desires may return to haunt them later, with disastrous results. What begins as a lively fantasy becomes a moving lesson about community responsibility and the stories we tell our children.

Originally conceived for 17 actors, the KIDSTAGE TeenSelect production boasts a cast of 29.

“We have had to do some creative reassigning of parts, as well as adding an ensemble,” said Director Kat Ramsburg. “What’s great about this cast is that they are so young. There was a great exodus of KIDSTAGE kids leaving for college this past fall, and what emerged were an amazingly talented group of kids who have been faithfully performing in the chorus and taking classes, waiting for their turn to play the lead.”

Ramsburg returns to the role of KIDSTAGE director for the first time since directing “Seussical” in 2006. Ramsburg is not only a Mainstage actor —most recently seen on stage as the understudy for Jo in “Little Women” — but she has also been a KIDSTAGE class instructor since 2000.

“Some actors don’t like to teach and direct, but I love it just as much as performing,” she said. “You get a hand in raising the next generation of performers.”

Ramsburg has worked to encourage these young actors to develop a sense for the kind of dedication it takes to create a great show.

“I’ve been amazed at how much work they are doing outside of our rehearsals,” she said. “We have a saying — ‘Rehearsal is for the theater, practice is for home,’ meaning that we can’t accomplish everything we want to if we all don’t put in extra effort outside of our rehearsals.

“We teach them something and expect for them to come back to our next rehearsal with it better than when we left off,” she added.

And, because KIDSTAGE is not only about producing a show, but more about the learning experience along the way, these lessons are essential throughout the process, she said.

“‘Into The Woods’ offers kids an opportunity to develop those skills to a fuller extent than some other shows out there, because it is a challenging piece, both in plot and in musicality,” she said.

KIDSTAGE TeenSelect’s production of “Into The Woods” boasts a creative team made up of theater professionals who frequently work in varying roles for Mainstage productions. R.J. Tancioco (music directing “Stunt Girl” this spring) is the music director and Kristin Culp (performed in “Aida”) is the choreographer. Both have done extensive work with Mainstage and are KIDSTAGE instructors.

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