The excitement is certainly mounting at the Hilliard Civic & Cultural Arts Center as thirty excited tweens get ready for Seussical Jr., a high energy musical based on the words of Dr. Seuss. This musical is presented as part of the For Kids by Kids program of the Hilliard Arts Council. Each year two productions are presented by local kids in the theater season. Usually one is a “straight play” meaning it doesn’t have a musical base. We’ve done Stinky Cheese Man, Charlotte’s Web, and Winnie the Pooh in recent years. This fall we’ll do Cinderella. The other performance is a musical. These are full scale productions, scenery, make up, costumes, singing, dancing and lots of hard work by talented fourth through eighth graders. Seussical Jr. is full of such talented kids.
The story lines of Dr. Seuss are well known. In the musical a young boy, JoJo, stumbles upon a lone red and white striped hat. The curious owner, the Cat in the Hat introduces JoJo to the wondrous world of Seuss. The Cat begins with the story of Horton who is left sitting on the egg of Mayzie La Bird. And so our story begins.
Our Creative Team for Seussical Jr. is made up of a group of wonderful veteran professionals who have done many shows both adult and children’s. With are two assistant directors DJ Williams and Tina Schreck, musical directors, Logan Fletcher and Tim Byrer, choreographer Amy Lang, Technical Director Ed Daniels and finally me, as Director Linda Sheppard.
I’ve been doing children’s theater, creative drama, process drama and participation theater with children for too many decades than I care to admit. As an Otterbein University Theater graduate, I came out of college well prepared to both teach theater and act professionally. I found I liked the stability of teaching and working with kids. I was fortunate enough to teach in a program called Arts Impact where we integrated the arts into the elementary curriculum. I then moved on teaching at Fort Hayes Arts and Academic high school where I directed many plays and musicals with students who planned to go on to theater careers. Then finished up my teaching career at Ohio State University and Otterbein University. All this to say, I’ve been around.
Why do I like this so much? Because of the excitement of working with young kids who don’t know how talented they are. I like watching this age group create. Different personalities with various experiences get a script, read it, and perhaps start frustrated because the beginning rehearsals are slow and really not too exciting. Then as we move on to improvisation games and character building, It can be intimidating to “put yourself out there” to build a character, but they do it, and do it earnestly. Cast members are often coming to rehearsal from playing soccer, or a music or dance lesson. Homework is encouraged during down time, however, there isn’t much down time. The Creative Team keeps the kids busy with small dance reviews, going over music that somehow “just isn’t quite right” or running lines with different inflections or character movements. By the end of rehearsals the cast has learned lots of music, acting and dancing skills, made friends, gained confidence and they are ready to put on a show. With confidence comes the excitement of getting ready for opening night.
At this point, the creative team is busy putting the many final touches on the show. Watching, coaching, looking for props and trying on costumes can be like spinning many plates in the air. There are so many moving parts. But suddenly there is a magic moment. Just today at rehearsal one of the songs that I have heard many times just stopped me; made me listen again and be touched by the beauty, innocence and sincerity of the young voices singing and acting on stage. That’s why I do it.
As we get ready for our opening on March 4th and continue that weekend and the next, we hope you’ll join us to watch and enjoy Seussical Jr. so you too can be moved to relax and watch for magic moment