Young ‘Pirates’ needed to storm local stage

PARKERSBURG – For young people interested in experiencing live theater, a local theater program is preparing for a new year.

The Theatre de Jeunesse Inc. held pre-auditions at the Parkersburg Academy on 38th Street Sunday afternoon, following a similar class on Saturday at Marietta College in Marietta.

From smaller children to high school and college-age teenagers, there was something for everyone to learn.

“We are targeting kids who think they might like to go into professional theater,” said Linda Buchanan, administrative director of the youth theater program.

Buchanan and her husband, Gary, started Theatre de Jeunesse about three years ago to fill a void in the area, she said.

“There really isn’t anywhere for (teenagers to young adults) to go to participate in the arts,” she said.

The production being performed on July 12-14 and 19-21 at the Friederich Theater in the Hermann Fine Arts Center at Marietta College is from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.” Buchanan said the workshop Sunday was to help the children and teens gain an understanding of the play by learning about the background and gaining the confidence to play a role in it.

“The Pirates of Penzance” dates back to 1879. The main character of the play is a man named Frederic who, upon turning 21, is released from a band of pirates. He comes into contact with Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley and the two fall in love. Frederic discovers that he was born Feb. 29 and technically only has a birthday each leap year. His indentured state means he will have to serve another 63 years as a pirate. Bound by his own sense of duty to his work, his only solace is found in Mabel who agrees to wait from him, faithfully.

Buchanan and assistant director Karen Smith said doing classical productions makes sure there are no boundaries crossed. Galen Smith is the director of the play.

“We have to somehow relate the context of the story to them with something that they do know,” Karen Smith said of teaching the young pupils about classical plays.

Meryl Walker knows first-hand what it’s like to be a parent whose children are no longer exposed to the arts at school, due to budget cuts occurring nationwide. She said her children, Connor, 12, and Clare, 9, are from Williamstown where there is no presence of drama or musical theater in their school.

She has tried various theater productions throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley to make sure her children are exposed to the artistic side of life.

Buchanan said the company tries to pick classical plays rather than well-known ones. She said it teaches the children involved more of a lesson and they can gain more of an understanding of how people in those times lived and what they experienced.

Austin Perkins, a freshman at Ohio Valley University, said he was no stranger to putting on performances. He craves the lights, camera, action part of production, he said.

“This will be my fifth play,” said Perkins. “It gives you a certain rush that you don’t find in many other things.”

Perkins said he was interested in the role of the Major-General because it challenges him musically.

“It’s like a fast rap that puts most rappers to shame,” Perkins said of the well-known song beginning “I am the very model of a modern Major-General, I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral, I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical.”

This program is presented with financial assistance through grants and from The Oakland Foundation, Artsbridge, the Belpre Area Community Development Foundation, the Ohio River Border Initiative, Easton Printing, and in partnership with the Parkersburg Art Center and the Allohak Council 618 of the Boy Scouts of America.

For more information on the production or organization visit the website at www.tdej.org.

Formal auditions for the musical will take place April 13 from 1-4 p.m. at the Hermann Fine Arts Center on Butler Street in Marietta and April 14 from 2-5 p.m. at the Parkersburg Academy on 38th Street in Parkersburg.