Young area actors prepare for showcase

Dozens of aspiring young actors and stage setters are participating in “Kids Acting Academy” at the Marshalltown Community Theatre this week.

The program is focused on teaching children about performing arts, and the hard work and practice of the kids will ultimately amount to a showing of “Peter Pan” on Friday afternoon.

“These kids all have a true love for theater,” said Shannon Mitchell, director. She said this event is the first of it’s kind in Marshalltown.

“We plan to make it an annual event,” Mitchell said. Originally, the Acting Academy was expected to attract fewer than a dozen kids. The response was quite different, however.

“We had lots of parents calling, wanting their kids to be able to participate,” Mitchell said. “We had so many requests that we had to cut off applications, unfortunately.”

There are 72 kids participating.

There is no shortage of acting or staging skill among the children, and the instructors were pleased to see the children genuinely interested.

“These kids are such naturals,” said Vanessa Engel, extended learning teacher at Lenihan Intermediate School. She is helping with the production, and instructs many of the kids involved.

The children are between the ages of 6 and 14 years old.

“I’m going to play Chief Tiger Bamboo,” said 8-year-old actor Landon Staney. He added that making new friends was the most fun part of the production, in his opinion.

Other kids were also exited for their roles. Tuesday was the first official stage rehearsal, where dancing and choreography could be practiced full-scale.

“I think the singing and dancing are my favorite,” said 10-year-old Jenna Humphrey, who was intensely studying her lines as the character Murphy during a snack break. “Once you do [dance] a couple of times, it’s pretty easy.”

Not everyone’s job was on-stage. Some participants, like 12-year-old Mary Kate Gruening, had equally important back-stage duties.

“Pretty soon I’m going to be looking for costumes,” she said. Gruening has an interest in design in the performing arts, and is trying her hand at costume design, among other production jobs.

Mitchell said the kids are learning and having fun at the same time.

“It’s so neat to see the light-bulbs go on during practice,” she said.

“Kids Acting Academy will run until Friday, when the show is set to start at 3 p.m. at the Marshalltown Community Theatre.

“This is what our goal for Marshalltown was,” Mitchell said as she watched the kids practice on stage for the first time. “I’m very proud of them.”