I was born and raised in New York City just miles away from the theatre district. However, I find myself jealous of the opportunities many community theater groups around the country, but especially in this area, offer young people. In the days of government cutbacks where theater programs may be curtailed for more exam-oriented education and where home-schooling has become more prevalent, many of our youth are turning to local groups for their chance to get onstage.
Laurel Mill Playhouse has been offering this opportunity to youngsters for years. They began doing productions that showcased this age group since 1998. At times the kids worked both as actors, writers, and directors. Participation has risen and fallen over the years. Right now they have been doing a spring production for two years. They also produce a late spring Shakespearean play with teens and adolescents. The main focus has been a summer musical, directed by adults but starring talented young performers. Most of the holiday shows also include roles for young actors.
The 2015 Spring Young Adult One Act Festival was directed by Larry Simmons whose own daughter worked when she was younger at Laurel Mill Playhouse. She actually wrote one of the One Acts, Dear Diary. Larry is a veteran at this theater, and has been directing youth since 2010. The young actors obviously respect and like their director. Maureen Rogers is the producer.
I was fortunate to catch the production’s opening night. I marveled at the poise of the cast. Voices were clear and audible. There was no shuffling of feet, and lines were not muffed. These are often a problem with dealing with young actors. The actors, all female in this production, had characters they had worked to develop They understood timing in the comedic pieces, and there was a tremendous sense of ensemble.
After the production I had a chance to meet with these talented young women. whose ages ranged from 12- 19. They all had previous stage experience. Some of their favorite roles were in Little Women, Medieval Story Land, Pride and Prejudice, and at Laurel Mill Playhouse, Seussical the Musical and White Christmas.
The cast came from all over Potomac, Lanham, Columbia, Serverna Park, Severn, Columbia, Glen Burnie and, of course, Laurel. Most heard about this production directly from Larry Simmons or from friends. A few of the girls had mothers who had performed at the Playhouse.
Angelique Mondesir attends Meade High School while Allison and Alexis Thompson are twins and both attend University of Maryland at College Park. Juliet Beach is home-schooled, Rachel Kilgallon attends St. Mary of the Mills School, Rebecca Korn attends Wooten High School, Hannah Omran is a student at Hammond High School, Morgan Wenerick goes to Archbishop Spaulding High School, and Erica Ridge goes to Annapolis Area Christian School.
So, not only does the ensemble get to work with performers of different ages, but they also meet and work with people from different backgrounds. It is a great example for us all to see how well they work together and learn from each other.
I asked them what they had learned from this production. Their answer were basic, honest, and unplanned. “Crayons,” they stated, “were complex.” “Opening fortune cookies and stuffing them in your mouth is difficult.” “When you hit someone with a baseball bat it hurts less than you think it would.” “Quick changes are horrific…but possible.” One young woman stated she learned to act drunk.
If you think these answers are cryptic, go to Laurel Mill Playhouse and see The 2015 Spring Young Adult One Act Festival, and find out what they mean.
The 2015 Spring Young Adult One Act Festival plays through Sunday, April 12, 2015 (There will be no performances April 3, 4 and 5, 2015 due to the holidays.) at Laurel Mill Playhouse— 508 Main Street, in Laurel, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 617-9906, or purchase them online.