Sixteen productions in a month can be a lot, even for adult actors, but Creative Cauldron Producing Director Laura Connors Hull says her school-aged Learning Theater actors are up to the challenge.
“We treat them like they’re professionals – that’s what we tell them,” Hull said. “We’re investing in this show just as we do our adult productions. We’re dedicating a lot of resources toward it, and we are looking for kids who are really committed and want to learn this craft.”
As the culminating exercise of the Learning Theater program, a cast of 33 students and two professional actors will be staging “Tales from the Brothers Grimm” throughout November. The production, developed by Hull and local theater artist Matt Conner, brings together seven Grimm folktales, gelled by Conner’s original score and the ethereal set design of Margie Jervis.
Learning Theater productions are tailored to the talents of the program’s young actors, Hull explained, and the Grimm folktales offered material well-suited to the program’s aims. They’re familiar to audiences and actors alike, she said, with characters and themes that have become part of the cultural canon. Because they were originally stories, they promote storytelling from the actors when they’re brought to the stage. And with their witches, elves, and other magical elements, the work of the Brothers Grimm is ideal for capturing a child’s imagination.
“They’re filled with imagination, and very exciting to the kids for that reason,” Hull said.
Professional actress Dani Stoller and Helen Hayes Award-winning actor Stephen Gregory Smith will join the cast of young actors on the stage in this production. Hull said the two actors, in addition to having great on-stage talents, are both gifted teachers who offer professional mentorship to their young charges. And having adult actors in the production, Hull has found, elevates the level the young actors perform on.
In the seven-week Learning Theater program, young actors devote many an evening and Saturday morning to rehearsals and performances, learning both in preparation and on the stage. It’s hard work, but for students who want to learn the craft it’s a joyful experience.
“The kids come racing through the door for every performance, ready and totally thrilled to be here,” Hull said. “It’s pretty phenomenal.”
“Tales from the Brothers Grimm” runs Nov. 1 – 24. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. The play will be performed at ArtSpace Falls Church, 410 S. Maple Ave. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for students and seniors. For more information, visit creativecauldron.org.