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Published: Wednesday, 7/16/2008

Young actors in tune with '70s musical in Perrysburg

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Cast members listen to director Tim Lake at the Perrysburg High School auditorium, where they will perform next week. Cast members listen to director Tim Lake at the Perrysburg High School auditorium, where they will perform next week.
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If "Conjunction Junction" draws a blank, you've just dated yourself as being above a certain age.

The term is a song title from Schoolhouse Rock, an award-winning 1970s Saturday morning cartoon series that taught history, math, and science with clever tunes that have been used in classrooms ever since.

The song is also in Schoolhouse Rock Live!, a musical derived from the cartoons that the Perrysburg Youth Summer Theater Camp will perform at Perrysburg High School next week on Wednesday and Thursday. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.

Director Tim Lake said he was shocked initially at how familiar his young cast members were with the songs.

Cast members Emile Cotte, 11, left, Abby Newman, 10, and Anya Kress, 11, deliver a spirited performance at rehearsal. Cast members Emile Cotte, 11, left, Abby Newman, 10, and Anya Kress, 11, deliver a spirited performance at rehearsal.
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"These 10 to 15-year-olds grew up with the music. The songs are ingrained in pop culture," he said.

This marks a big difference from last year, when he directed Pirates of Penzance, the famous Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera, for the summer theater program. That story was full of political and social humor aimed at a Victorian audience. The late 19th-century vocabulary was difficult for youngsters to grasp and remember.

This year, however, there are no such problems. The players come to rehearsal knowing their lines and lyrics, Mr. Lake said. Nineteen out of 31 are age 12 or younger. The players are from the Perrysburg area.

The storyline is easily understood too. It involves a new, nerve-wracked teacher, Tom, who is about to start his first day on the job. He turns on the TV in the morning and sees Schoolhouse Rock. The songs unlock a dreamy flashback in which he converses with different aspects of his personality.

The six lead roles are Tom and his five personality parts. Dialogue is minimal. The songs carry the story, with accompaniment by a jazz trio.

Jack Holden, 16, plays Tom. The other leads are Amanda Suarez as Dori; Morgan Brunsman as Dina; John Gadient as George; Josh Abraham as Joe, and Abbie Hermiller as Shulie. All are 13 except for Abbie, who is 14.

The choreographers, Brittany Beery and Faith Boone, are 13 too.

The characters run the gamut from "goofy and out of place" (Amanda's description of Dori) to "laid back, the voice of reason (John's description of George).

A lucky turn of events landed the production in the spiffy theater in the high school auditorium.

Last year's performance was in the junior high, where this year's was supposed to be. But a parking lot repaving project at the junior high made using that building impractical, so school officials granted a request to use the high school, a much newer and superior facility.

"The theater is just gorgeous. I'm trying to make use of everything we can here. They have a great scene shop that we're borrowing from," Mr. Lake explained.

The theater camp is coordinated by the Perrysburg Area Arts Council.

Financial sponsorship comes from the city of Perrysburg and Perrysburg Township, according to Robin Ballmer, the arts council's executive director.

Ms. Ballmer said putting on Schoolhouse Rock Live! will cost about $10,000, with about $2,700 of that coming from the city and the township.

Owens-Illinois provided a $1,000 grant. Expenses for the production are offset in part by program advertising, the $135 tuition that participants pay for the camp, and ticket sales.



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