Young Company History
Although TWS is not a children’s theater, resident staff member have had a long-standing commitment to including young actors and technicians in the process of creating and performing. In addition to the opportunities available in the season subscription series of plays and musicals, there are many other ways a young actor or technician can become part of TWS.
Here’s a little history lesson for folks who don’t yet know that TWS provides a Young Company Division for young people ages 6-18:
Resident staff created a strong Apprentice Program where young high school students had an intense three-month experience in all aspects of theater. This group of developing theater artists also presented a children’s show to general audiences. Trish Adair, Stacy Plaskett, Jeff Peiken, Joe Niesen, Kathryn Ankenman (Hart), and Matt Haslam, now working theater professionals, were among the apprentices who passed through TWS.
Lorenzo Aragon originated a bilingual outreach project in conjunction with Monterey County Migrant Education called ¡Pues! Lorenzo took the expressed hopes, dreams, and feelings of local students and put them into theatrical form with music, which was then presented to the very same students the following year. During this time, TWS had a core actor program that also provided a touring Shakespeare program that traveled to local high schools to engage and recruit students into theater arts.
JRTheater, a Creative Dramatics program, was a pet project of Casting Director Jim McLean’s. Offered in partnership with Hartnell’s Workforce and Community Education office, Jr. Theater gave budding performers ages 5-11 the chance to work with members of TWS’s acting company in the creative exploration of improvisation, movement, music, and storytelling.
The Peter Pan Project: 60 kids were involved in the development of an original adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale. New musical numbers, spearheaded by Jon Selover, Dianne Busch, and John Jay Espino, had two recitals before being inserted into the mainstage production of Peter Pan in the summer of 1991. Among the many other TWS Company Members who worked with the energetic sixty were Michael Nickerson, Kathy Nathan, Judy Orlandella, Jim McLean, and Joelle Pieruccini Kaiser.
Play’s-the-Thing (PtT) saw its beginnings in the Peter Pan Project and continued its exploration of new adaptations and development workshops with Wind of a Thousand Tales, a three-phase project that had the creative push of Jon Selover, Joyce Lower Sherry, and Tracy Bryce Farmer. Forty actors between the 5th and 8th grades learned the fundamentals of writing, performance, acting, and ensemble building. In 1995, the cast performed to full houses at our Cabaret Oldtown theater.
A “Kids and Family” ad hoc committee was formed with TWS staff members Sheryl Bailey (Heath) and Leo Cortez taking the lead on program proposals and organization. Also included in this ad hoc committee were Tracy Bryce (Farmer), James Farmer, Chris Graham, Lori Koenig, Myrna Kranz, Kristin Kusanovich, Joyce Lower (Sherry), Taft Miller, and Jon Selover.
Play!Write! was a in-class program brought up from San Diego by Tracy Bryce and continued for many seasons by Joyce Lower. Play!Write! students were challenged to write about their own experiences (real & imagined) while learning about and incorporating basic dramatic structure. Emphasis was on the exploration of conflict and its resolution. In addition, student learned basic acting techniques in order to present their writings at the conclusion of the residency.
Another ad hoc committee (Joyce Lower, Melissa Chin (Parker), Anya Finke, Jim McLean, Jon Selover, and Jack Halpin) continued the work begun two years prior to cull the best ideas concerning programming for youth and to create a mission and philosophical statement, codification of individual program curricula, and an ombudsman committee.
Young Company becomes a formal division of TWS. The past efforts of staff culminated in year-to-year stability of program offering. Melissa Chin Parker acts as the Division Director and oversees all activities offered to young people through the Rep stages and shops, outreach classes and workshops, partnerships with other organizations and Hartnell departments, and all Young Company Programs.
Nina Capriola and Marc & Lyla Englehorn direct PtT and YCP (YCPresents) projects, and work to add a workshop series offered to local schools.
A banner year for YC. The Division auditions 100 young actors and, as in the past three seasons, produces an original PtT project and YCP musical project in the summer. Added to the season was a highly successful fall YCP production under the direction of resident staff member Donna Federico, and an outreach show, The Spirit of Hispania, which was performed before 2500 students. To top everything off, Young Company received a commendation from the City of Salinas.
YC receives a generous donation from the Sally Hughes Church Foundation, which sponsors the complete YC2001 Season. YC now has a database of over 400 and continues to offer programming FEE FREE. The fall project, Songs and Stories, was the final directing project of then Artistic Director Tom Humphrey, who departed TWS after 15 years to join the Theater Department staff of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
YC is ever growing and changing, as are the young participants who have gone through its programs. We have seen another generation of actors grow up and move on to principal roles within the Rep as new young actors discover The Western Stage and its Young Company programs: for instance, Heather Osteraa as Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; David Ezekiel as Young Tommy in Tommy; Sarah Kenoyer as Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank; Michaela Petrovich as Muriel in Ah! Wilderness; Christina Hogan as Socorro in Rain of Gold. The High School Apprentice program continues to offer exceptional teens the opportunity to lend vital assistance to resident staff and to develop their skills as theater managers, technicians and performers. Many of the Apprentices have gone on to take leadership roles in their individual high school or college drama programs.
For the first time, because of the rise in College fees, TWS asks for support from its participants through a minimum contribution towards enrollment and registration fees. Although YC projects (with the exception of those run through Hartnell College‚ Community Ed. Office) are no longer free-of-charge, K-12 students pay a total of $4 for programming, still maintaining affordability to as many participants as possible.
Play’s-the-Thing and YCPresents are now fully entrenched performance programs. In addition to JR Theater (Creative Dramatics for ages 5–8), a very successful YOU*THeater Camp is offered in partnership with Hartnell College’s Workforce and Community Ed. Office. Sixty new young actors/singers/dancers are introduced to The Western Stage in summer 2004. The last Season Subscription Musical of TWS‚ 2004 season is Into the Woods, Jr., which features young people between the ages of 14 and 19, and many of Young Company’s alumni are part of its cast.
Two new programs for young people are introduced in the beginning of TWS’s 2005 Season. “OnStage”, a theater conference for Monterey County High School Students, is introduced in April. Thirty local high schools are invited, and representatives from North Salinas and Salinas High Schools attend. Students work with TWS resident staff & instructors in stage combat, costume design & construction, and in performance of monologues & two-person scenes. The conference will be an annual offering in the month of February, when high school students are more available to attend. “Callback” is a summer performance program being introduced in summer 2005 and will target actors ages 16–20, who seek accelerated training in acting. This program is intended to act as a bridge between Young Company and TWS Repertory productions, and to attract students who are remaining in the area after graduating from high school and before they move on to a four-year collegiate program.
YC Program gets its own Coordinator/Adjunct Faculty position to focus on program development and organizational needs. TWS veteran and former staff member Susanne Burns is hired to fill this position and to coordinate Young Company and Outreach programs with the Artistic Program Director.
A new program, HS2JC, debuts. HS2JC is a performance program for the advanced high school and developing college actor.
1994 & 1995
The Wind of a Thousand Tales (original)
How to Eat Like a Child (by Delia Ephron, John Forster & Judith Kahan)
The Garbage Can*tata (by Barry Keating)
Master McCormick’s Original Vaudeville Review, Part II (original)
Michelangelo is Not a Turtle (by Linda Barnett, Barbara Onrot, Noelle Scorrano)
Heart of Ice (by Gary Peterson after the tale by Comte de Cayfus)
Fairytale Network (original)
Starbound: The Next Generation (original)
As the Lettuce Leaves Fall (original)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond (by Y. York after the novel by Elizabeth George Speare)
Bits of Broadway (original)
The Homework Assignment that Wouldn’t End (original)
Songs and Stories (original)
From Starlight to the Spotlight (original)
It’s a Jungle in Here! (original)
The Curate Shakepeare As You Like It (by Don Nigro)
Mac Mystery (original)
The Code Breaker (by Pauline C. Conley)
Total Recall or Nightmare on Gum Street (original)
Can Do! (original)
Liza and the Riddling Cave (by John Urquart)
The Andersen Project (original)
For the Love of Arlen (original)
Jugger’s Rain (by Ron Mark)
Voices of Poetry (original)
When Children Rule the World (original)
The Dickens Project (original)
A Thousand Cranes (by Kathryn Schultz Miller)
Athenian Time Warp (original)
Diamonds in the Rough (original)
Rutherford Wolf (by Thomas Hischak)
Heaven Help the ‘Po Taters (by Billy St. John)
Young Actor’s Showcase
Wllm. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Abridged)
The Crane Wife (adapted by Barbara Carlisle)
Animal Farm (adapted by Peter Hall)
Not So Grimm (original)
After Juliet (by Sharman Macdonald)
How to Eat like a Child and Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown Up (by Delia Ephron, John Forster & Judith Kahan)
The Outsiders (adapted by Christopher Sergel)
Crow and Weasel (adapted by Christopher Sergel)