Youth take part in theatre program

By David Brinson

During the first weeks of June, Wabash County students (first through 12th grade) rehearse three separate musicals simultaneously throughout the Honeywell Center. It’s noisy. It’s frantic. It’s just a little messy. But ask any of the show’s directors, and they’ll admit that theater is often all those things.

The Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) Summer Theatre Camp lasts multiple weeks of practice and ends with the children putting on a big show in front of their family. With nearly 120 participants, the program takes up every available corner of the Honeywell Center. Educating and entertaining the community since 1984, VPA had been struggling to stay afloat until the Honeywell Foundation recently took the helm.

“Honeywell decided this was a program that should stay in the community for as long as possible, so we stepped in and took over the program in 2013,” Director of Education and Outreach, Teresa Galley, said.

Galley noted there are parents in the audience who were also in VPA, now watching their children perform. She believes the benefits of the program travel with these performers, long after they leave the stage.

“Theatre teaches them how to think in the moment, to be comfortable in front of a crowd, to use speaking skills. Plus, all those musical skills,” Galley said. “Music is an amazing way to learn.”

On Friday, June 15, the first and second-graders performed a school musical called “Get in the Game” in the Honeywell Center’s Legacy Hall. The event was free admission. Kathy Huber served as the show’s director, with Jennifer Denney as her assistant director.

“It’s been incredible,” Denney said, as she watched the children rehearse in front of her. “These kids do an awesome job. They learn all this in just two weeks.”

There are still two shows that have yet to be performed: the third through sixth-graders’ “The Little Mermaid” and the seventh through 12th graders’ “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Judy Ward, director of “The Little Mermaid,” has been with the program for more than 30 years. She’s enjoyed watching these children grow up onstage, right before her eyes.

“I’ve always liked theater and working with the kids. I think it’s a great thing for the summertime,” Ward said.

Ward believes “The Little Mermaid” was a great fit for the program, since the children knew the material and were excited to perform it. There were also many speaking and solo parts. She did lament the casting process, which she called the hardest part, as it inevitably leads to disappointment and hurt feelings.

“We just can’t have 10 Little Mermaids and a dozen Sebastians,” she said. “But I think it uses our kids very well.”

The older students are performing a jazz-aged story about a small-town girl moving to New York in “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Director Jessica Keffaber chose the musical and believes it will surprise some people.

“It is a fun show. It is an upbeat show. It is a funny show. It has great music. I just knew this was a show the kids were going to have fun with and the audience was going to love. We have some things in this show that I’m so excited for the audience to see,” Keffaber said.

Keeping focus appears to be the greatest obstacle when working with the older age group. Keffaber recalled a “come to Jesus talk” she’d had with them earlier in the day, stressing the limited hours till rehearsal.

“They’re easy to pull back in, they lose focus sometimes, but they’re hard workers,’ she said. “I love this age, I love working with these guys. I have full faith in these kids that its going to be amazing.”

Both shows are performed consecutively, on both Friday and Saturday, June 22-23, in the Honeywell Center’s Ford Theatre.

“The Little Mermaid” begins at 5 p.m., with “Thoroughly Modern Millie” following at 7:30 p.m. A $5 ticket grants admission to both shows on a given night. A $7 weekend pass includes admission to every performance.

Posted on 2018 Jun 19