Friday, July 07, 2017

Next Generation of Theatre Shines at CCBC

Written by  Frankie Kujawa
Star (and penguin) power! Star (and penguin) power!

“Theater is the only institution in the world which has been dying for 4,000 years and has never succumbed,” wrote John Steinbeck. “It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive.” Steinbeck’s sentiment is echoed in the smiles, voices, and faces of the next generation of young actors and actresses at CCBC’s Court Jester’s Young People’s Theatre. Working diligently on their production of Madagascar Jr., running from Friday, July 7th to Sunday, July 9th, and then Tuesday, July 11th to Sunday, July 16th, the young actors and actresses of the production recently sat down with Baltimore OUTloud to share wisdom beyond their years and their yen for acting.

“I’m inspired to act because I like the singing and the dancing and the acting all in one,” explained, Erin Acerno, who’s 12. “I like doing all three of those things.” Acerno, along with her three sisters, Nora (eight), Evelyn (eight), and Maeve (also eight) have turned acting into a family affair. “I enjoy performing on stage because it gets you moving and it’s fun to be a part of something good like this,” added Evelyn as her sister Nora chirped, “You get to express your feelings in the show, you get to meet new friends and you get to act.”

One of the main sentiments echoed throughout chatting with these talented youngsters is the enjoyment of building relationships with peers. “My favorite part of performing is practicing and being with friends. It’s just a lot of fun,” says 15-year-old Emily Ricci, who plays Gloria the Hippo. “I know that’s kind of cliché to say ‘My favorite part is being with your friends,’ but it is. It’s really a community here and just somewhere where you can feel safe. At school you might be teased or picked on, but this is your family and you can trust them.”

14-year-old Grace Glennon, who plays Marty the Zebra, added, “To me, the best part is the people that you meet. I’ve met so many people in theater that I would never have met. People from so many diverse backgrounds.” Bella Comotto (ten) who plays Skipper the Penguin, chimed in, “I get to know a lot of my cast members and they become my friends outside of acting and it’s just really nice to have them.”

The passion and love of theater is alive for both Glennon and Ricci. “Performing on stage is just so much fun and it’s a great way to express yourself.” Glennon explained. “It’s great practice for when you’re older. I know that being in theater has helped me so much with school and public speaking.” Ricci added, “I think there’s just a magical feeling you get especially toward the end of numbers when everything is building up and you get that big finale. And there’s something about that, that just really sparks the interest and the magic that every kid wants to feel.”

Fellow performers Ryann Reich (11) and Jules Einhorn (14) – who plays Alex the Lion and Melman the Giraffe, respectively – bring that magic and wonder to their audiences. Reich explained, “I like performing because just being in front of a live audience, and getting their positive reaction, it gives me a good feeling inside.” Einhorn added, “I like performing on stage because I like to bring joy to the community. It’s a lot of fun working with different people and putting myself in different character’s shoes. I really enjoy experimenting with different types of acting.”

Liz Boyer Hunnicutt, the director of Madagascar Jr., is in awe of the amount of work these young actors and actresses bring to their craft each rehearsal. “It’s an honor to work with the next generation of performers. It’s my absolute joy to see a child walk in on day one a bit shy or quiet, and by the last show, they are so different. They smile more, they have made lifelong friends, and they shine.”

Grace Glennon beamed. “I enjoy learning so much with Miss Liz, our great director.” Emily Ricci added, “I definitely think there are points, when you’re rehearsing, where you eventually hit lows. However, sometimes talking to the director and getting that note that you’re doing things well can really brighten your day. You appreciate it and it’s like someone recognizes that I’m doing a good job.”

Boyer Hunnicutt added, “These kids truly do inspire me. Their passion and hard work boost my spirit every single day. They are so committed to bringing the show to life. They learn from each other and grow together. They have fun! I want these young actors to go into the world with confidence and to walk a little taller, and to believe in themselves.”

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