By Ken DeLaat
There is nothing quite like Community Theater. It is a place where a diverse group of people come together to explore and express their creativity. Community theater generally involves participants of all ages and is especially important to our youth as it can teach everyone about working with one another and bettering themselves as individuals and as a whole. Even the audience can benefit from such an effort, not only in the form of a performance, but because they will get to experience a diverse group of people working together as one.
It is especially important to our youth. With schools struggling to find the resources or even the time to provide much in the way of creative arts activities of this type are more vital than ever. And while the oft referenced ‘3 R’s’ (which are really one R, a W and an A…just saying) remain important the arts can open up new vistas for our young people and allow them to experience the world in new and exciting ways.
Back in the day when I wore a younger man’s clothes I was coaxed by a friend to try out for our school play. I recall the hard work that went into the process but also the unique camaraderie among all who were involved from actors to stage hands. This led me to continue to pursue this interest after graduation and I was privileged to be cast in plays at GR Civic Theater over the ensuing years The friendships formed in these productions were memorable and the experience instilled a passion for the arts that remains in what is now a much older person.
Stage Door Players in White Cloud is offering Anne of Avonlea over the next two weekends. Last year they performed Anne of Green Gables and both are based on the wonderful series by L.M. Montgomery. We have included info on the production below and I strongly encourage all who have an interest to attend. In addition I have been impressed by Flying Bear Books in Newaygo for their ongoing support of the arts.
Last Spring we attended the Poetry Slam held at the Grant Fine Arts Center as well as the practice sessions held at the bookstore. It was impressive to say the least as young people stood in front of their peers to deliver some of the most heartfelt and personal readings. They were taking a risk, just as the people on stage take a risk every time they step up to perform whether in a major role or making a brief appearance.
Last week FBB held a “Meet the Cast” event at their store to help promote the production. This is the kind of community support that lends itself to encouraging interest in the arts.
Speaking with various cast members and veteran SDP Director Ted Mitchell it was easy to get a sense of the excitement and anticipation they held for the upcoming production. They mingled about the store talking to the folks that came to the doings about the play, whether they had any past theater experience or were first timers and generally putting on display that special kind of bonding characteristic of theater people.
Community theater belongs to all in the community and whether helping out backstage or taking to the floorboards it is so worth the time and effort for what one receives from participation. The adults involved learn as much from their younger counterparts as the youth do from the older participants so it’s one of those rare win-win situations.
But enough of the soapbox speech promoting community arts. Here’s the skinny on the play
Anne Shirley is back! Following their highly successful production of Anne of Green Gables about a year ago, Stage Door Players will be offering the next chapter in the life of spunky orphan Anne Shirley. Anne of Avonlea follows Anne as she pursues her first year of teaching while also being involved in the Avonlea Village Improvement Society, cultivating a friendship with a cantankerous neighbor, and sorting her feelings for Gilbert Blythe. As with Anne of Green Gables, this is a story of finding purpose, seizing opportunity, and defining what it means to care about others.
Returning as Anne is Layla Empie, whose performance endeared audiences so much last year. Jeanne Bock returns as Marilla after her celebrated interpretation of her in Green Gables. Matthew Brooks returns also, this time playing Mr. J.A. Harrison, the eccentric neighbor. Alivia Wachter assumes the role of Diana, Anne’s dearest friend. Christian Burns charms as Gilbert, who has long pined for Anne. Rachel is played by Erin Moull, who was Lucy in Green Gables. Rounding out the cast are Bev Guikema as Emily, Saria Brooks as Gertie, Erin Burns as Julia, Ava Vincent as Paula, Delilah Moull as Jane, Alex Johnson as Sarah, Laurie Deaters as Fred, and Noah Empie as Tommy.
As with Anne of Green Gables, Ted Mitchell is directing the ensemble. His assistant director is Patty Miesen. The show opens on September 30 and also runs on October 1, 7, and 8 All performances are at the Stage Door Theater in White Cloud at 7:00 p.m.
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