This fall’s theatrical production of Xanadu JR will start auditions next week. Thanks to a number of recent grants to benefit The J’s budding youth theater program, participation in the play will be free of charge.
“This is a huge deal,” says Executive Director Brooke Bowles. “The grants that we’ve received for our theater program so far this year — coupled with our dedication to attracting a diverse cast of varying abilities — are why this is possible.”
Participation in a youth theater program can cost hundreds of dollars per child. “I am not aware of another theater program going to these lengths to remove the barriers limiting some from participating,” Brooke adds. “I am proud of The J for taking this big step.”
An ambitious production
Despite a post-pandemic relaunch that saw a production of The Velveteen Rabbit in March, The J’s youth theater program has been stuttering. When local theater veteran Jill Marlar came on board to direct Xanadu, she soon realized that it would be worth taking a step back and carefully assessing the needs.
“With its large cast, Xanadu JR is admittedly ambitious,” Jill explains. It became clear that we needed more time to promote and gain interest in the program in order to cast the show.” After an initial round of auditions this summer, the show date was moved to November. Then Jill had an idea.
“It felt like the right time to start offering a weekly theater experience for youth.”
So she started Stagecraft, a series of weekly two-hour sessions filled with improv, skit development, and just good creative fun on stage. “There really was no teaching involved because this group knows how to tell stories through original skits and character development,” Jill explains. “I’ve walked into a theater program with a solid core of dedicated, innovative, and highly cooperative youth who knock my socks off with their enthusiasm for the stage.”
Now she’s hoping to grow that core with Xanadu.
“Theater is such a great experience for kids,” Jill says. “They learn to express themselves and communicate in ways they might not learn in the classroom or on the playground. They can learn skills on stage here at The J that will stick with them forever.”
Case in point: Two decades ago Daniel Scheinert appeared on stage at The J for a production of Gypsy. Earlier this year he won three Oscars for his movie Everything Everywhere All at Once.
“We’re rebuilding something here and we want the community to be a part of it,” Jill says.
- Open to ages 8-15
- Xanadu JR informational gathering: Monday, August 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m. — all ages welcome to learn more about the play and enjoy its music
- In-person Tuesday, August 8, 3:30-6 p.m.
- Online through August 13
- Parent meeting and read-through: Sunday, August 27, 1-4 p.m.