KIDSTAGE debuts play ‘Save as…’

March 2, 2009

By David Hayes

Advice columnist Jason (Isaiah Parker) helps teens Elvira (Sarah Oates) and Ryan (Kenta Murakami) in Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE original production of ‘Save as...’ At left, Jason next helps Natalie (Kendyl Morris). By Jean Johnson

Advice columnist Jason (Isaiah Parker) helps teens Elvira (Sarah Oates) and Ryan (Kenta Murakami) in Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE original production of ‘Save as…’ At left, Jason next helps Natalie (Kendyl Morris). By Jean Johnson

In the fall, 17 amateur theater students in Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE Company Program join forces with professionals from the arts, many veterans of the theater’s main stage. Starting literally with a blank page, their goal is to have a completely original musical production to showcase to their peers at the end of four months .

“In the professional world, this would be impossible,” said Orlando Morales.

Morales, who’s 25 and working toward his master’s teaching degree at the University of Washington, is a veteran of the KIDSTAGE Summer Rep Program. He signed on as musical director and, with the help of lyric mentor Suzy Conn, steered the students’ improvisational sessions into actual characters, songs and a plot.

The fruit of their efforts, “Save as…,” debuts March 6 at First Stage.

“There’s a lot of trepidation to the process,” Morales said. “To somehow make this work and see your efforts up on the stage is a most rewarding experience.”

Eastlake High School senior Julia Taylor Bicknell, 17, has participated in KIDSTAGE programs since 2001. This year was her first foray into writing. She explained the title of the musical was intended to have a double meaning.

“We wanted something cool and catchy, with a techy sound, like the save as button on a computer, but also meaning as a way to save people,” she said.

Last year, Taylor Bicknell was an actor. This year, she said it was an entirely new concept for her, trying to sustain a plot to last two hours while incorporating 16 other characters.

“It’s really challenging,” she said. “Of course, you couldn’t make everyone happy giving them significant character arcs.”

What they arrived at was a tale of a Dear Abby-type personality, Dr. J, who gives advice to get through the day, who suddenly stops writing. In parallel action, there’s the character Jason, who dies in a car accident with his two siblings. The rest is their coping with and grieving for his loss.

Adding to the challenge was the director’s busy schedule. Eric Jensen, who starred as The Beast in the main stage production of “Beauty and the Beast,” had to depart midway through “Save as…” production to rehearse for the next Village Theatre play, “Stunt Girl.”

Taking over the reins was assistant director and choreographer Kathryn Van Meter. She thought it only fair to return the favor for Jensen when he jumped to direct a KIDSTAGE production last year when she had to depart.

“It was interesting this year to not start in the fall workshop and pick up with them in the spring,” she said. “They are such an amazingly talented group of actors. It was an honor to work with them.”

She added that to go from a blank slate to a finished musical “gives them a huge amount of ownership that they can take away from the experience.”

KIDSTAGE Programs Manager Suzie Bixler said the additional challenge this year is getting a buzz created in the community to watch an unknown entity.

“I’d love to see teens come see this,” she said. “It’s unique and specially designed for teens, written by other teens. It’s actually more innovative to produce a play this way than to just pluck a finished script off the shelf.”

If you go

‘Save as…’

March 6-15

7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday

2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday

First Stage Theatre

120 Front St. N.

$14 general admission

$12 youth and seniors

392-2202 or www.villagetheatre.org

Reach Reporter David Hayes at 392-6434, ext. 237, or dhayes@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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