This weekend will mark the 27th play performed by The New World Children's Theatre since it's inception in 1993.
The unruly brainchild of Jeff Ingram, executive director of Standing Rock Cultural Arts, this group has grown from a puppet theater into a full blown production where each year these children go through the entire process of creating a play from an idea to the performance.
This year, TNWCT will present “The Authority (What Happens When You Don't Follow The Rules).”
If you happen to wander into Oscar Ritchie Hall Friday, Saturday or Sunday expect to see a view of the future — a world where The Authority rules and if you don't obey, expect to be “disappeared.”
During one rehearsal, I sat down with the two main characters of the show to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to create a play of this proportion.
Valerie Thrasher, 12, and Henry Labelle, 11, are enthusiastic and dedicated students who don't lack any creativity. In fact, ideas spurted out of them faster than I could write them down.
Thrasher, who is gearing up to attend Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts next year, introduced the main inspiration for the play to the group. She got the idea after having a dream about being trapped in a factory.
This initial idea was accepted by the TNWCT discerning playwrights and embellished by Labelle, a student at Falcon Academy of Creative Arts. Labelle invented "tritonium," a substance three times stronger than plutonium that, once in the Authority's hands, will make them invincible.
This is very disturbing to the main characters, Clara and Jake, who are on a mission to find Clara's mother. Mother is in danger of being disappeared. I don't want to give away all of the play's surprises, but I will say that the way the dissenting members of society are disappeared is quite interesting ... in a squeamish jelly-like way.
Thrasher and Labelle seem to know their characters pretty well. “My character and his (Labelle's) character are unlikely friends,” Thrasher said.
Labelle agreed adding that his character, Jake, is funny while Thrasher's Clara is serious. Labelle identifies with Jake because he is a jokester in real life, while Thrasher has to dig a little deeper to get in touch with Clara. “She's not the smartest,” Thrasher pauses, “but she is really determined.”
I was wondering how such different characters got to be such good friends. Labelle likens Clara and Jake's friendship with one of his own experiences where he made an unlikely friend when he was paired up with someone he didn't know very well for a school project.
Both Thrasher and Labelle are very interested in writing and have other stories in the works.
Thrasher is writing another play called The Curse Factory that she hopes to perform someday. Labelle is working on a novel centered around two young men who live in California and happen to be best friends. The two travel into other dimensions and meet interesting adventures along the way.
Of all the different hats these students wear in TNWCT, the the favorite of Thrasher and Labelle is acting. Both have participated in this program before and say that they are nervous in the days and moments leading up to showtime, but once they are onstage the jitters melt away and they just give the best performance they can.
“The Authority” will be showing at 7:30 p.m. May 18-19 and at 3 p.m. May 20 in Oscar Richie Hall at Kent State University. General admission is $5 and students/seniors are $3.