A freshman next fall at Heritage Christian School, 14-year-old Mariah Kenfield was walking into the Tri-County School for another day of play rehearsals on Thursday, July 14. She was preparing for the role of “Beauty” in the Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre (PFCT) play, “Beauty and the Beast.” The performance was set for the next day and Kenfield had received her lines on that Monday— three days before. She was excited about the lead role, but a little stressed about the lines.
“I was kind of surprised, not going to lie,” Kenfield said, “because I’ve been a kind of a main (role), but not like (a) lead-lead (role), I guess you would call it.”
Led by two PFCT Tour Actors and Directors, Kenfield represented one of 38 youth who rehearsed for and put on a performance of “Beauty and the Beast,” held on the Tri-County School stage on Friday, July 15.
PFCT Tour Actors and Directors Christie Lamb and Jimmy Lancaster discussed what they enjoy about working with these youth, how the week had been going, how they prepare these youth in such a short time, and why they see this as such a worthwhile opportunity. Some youth participants also talked about why they decided to participate in this play and what they enjoy most about it.
As for the directors, originally from Connecticut, Lamb calls Newnan, Ga. home. Big into musical theatre, Lamb graduated from Columbus State University with a BFA in Theatre Performance. Besides directing, she played “Serafina, The Enchantress” in this performance.
An Ann Arbor, Mich., native, Lancaster recently graduated from Ohio Northern University, a place where he earned a BFA in Musical Theatre with a minor in Music. Besides directing, he played the “Father/Beast” in this play. For more info on these two directors, visit the following link: www.prairiefirechildrenstheatre.com/beauty-and-the-beast-team .
Lancaster said things had been going smoothly with this group and that he and Lamb hoped it continued to go smoothly.
“As long as we don’t take a step backwards, we’re going to be ready for (the performance) tomorrow,” Lancaster said back on July 14.
The week began on Monday, July 11, with half the day reserved for auditions and the other half for rehearsals.
“The kids will already know their roles and start rehearsing their roles on the first day, which is unusual for a production,” Lancaster said. “Usually it takes, you know, a couple of days for roles to come out.”
The second day, they continue to rehearse. Each day, they rehearse for four hours and 15 minutes, with a 15-minute break in the middle.
By the third day they rehearse without their scripts. In a six-week process, getting off the script usually happens around week three or four, Lancaster said. By Thursday, they are running through the show.
“That’s unheard of, unless you’re like at Broadway level with people filling in parts that are already created,” Lancaster said.
Having led different groups of youth through this show before Tri-County, Lamb said she has learned to be gracious with the youth participants. The first few weeks she expected a show to be put together in five days, as a college campus would be able to do. She forgot that she is working with youth, individuals who don’t get much theater.
“If the kids mess up, and if they’re struggling, and if they’re confused with stuff (I’ve looked) to really encourage them and let them know that it’s okay,” Lamb said. “We’re going to do this all together as a team. Even if you mess up, one of us, we’ll get to you and we’ll pick you up and it’s all good.”
As Lancaster said, it’s about ensuring these youth know they are not alone and that they— the directors— are here for them.
“Everyone just wants success,” Lancaster said. “We’re going to support each other and do what we can.”
Despite the stress felt throughout the week by both participants and directors, Lamb wants this to be a “fun” activity for youth.
“My thing is, is like, come Friday, it’s so much fun. And the kids have so much fun that all the stress that they may have felt previously in the week was completely worth it,” Lamb said. “And we always send them off and they always smile.”
For these directors, giving these youth this opportunity and seeing their reactions to it are what they enjoy most about working with them.
“There’s not a lot of theater out here in general,” Lancaster said, “so it’s really fun to let kids know what theater is about (and) let them know if they want to go to a more populated area to try out theater for longer periods of time.”
He also enjoys all the unexpected and “fun” things these youth bring to the stage.
One of Lamb’s favorite parts about working with these youth is seeing their development from that first day on Monday to the onstage end result.
“The kids seem like they’re having so much fun,” Lamb said.
Her favorite day of the week is dress rehearsal, a time when the youth get their costumes and the whole show is put together.
“The kids just absolutely love it,” Lamb said. “And it’s just so fun seeing such kids like from ages 6 to 16, the joy in all of the ages.”
One of those kids, nine-year old Jack Sollund, a fourth grader next fall at Tri-County, played the “Prince” in the play. He has enjoyed watching the performers in the show dance around and sing songs.
“I just want to try out new things,” Sollund said when asked why he decided to participate in the play. “… It just sounded fun.”
Josephine Wade, 15 and a sophomore next fall at Tri-County, is playing the head servant, “Major Domo,” in the play. She performed in this play before, having played one of the “sassy” sisters.
“I remember doing it when I was little and it was a bunch of fun,” Wade said. “… It’s a great part of Tri-County, because there’s not a lot of things for the kids. And this is one of the things you can do around the summer that’s great for all ages.”
The PFCT program is open to those ages 7 to 18. The group that performed at Tri-County ranged from ages 7 to 15.
To see the complete story, read the July 21 issue of the North Star News in print or online.