Local kids to light up the stage for ‘Into the Woods Jr.’ theater production | SierraSun.com

Local kids to light up the stage for ‘Into the Woods Jr.’ theater production

From left, Megan Darzynkiewicz, Taylor Hollis, Paige McGarry, Canyon Gemme and Lizzy Mason during a rehearsal in 2015 of “Into the Woods, Jr.”
Courtesy Kristie Pellegrino |

If you go

What: “Into the Woods, Jr.”

When: Friday (7 p.m.), Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.), Oct. 23-25

Where: Truckee Community Arts Center, 10046 Church St., Truckee

Tickets: $20 (adults), $15 (seniors), $10 (kids

Info: truckeecommunitytheater.com

TRUCKEE, Calif. — When Courtney Simson took over as the Producing Artistic Director of the Truckee Community Theater in 2013, her vision was to one day put on a play starring only children.

“My dream was to always have a real community theater,” Simson said on Tuesday. “In the sense that it wasn’t just for adults; a theater group for kids productions, where all kids could participate.”

Two years later, Simson is making that a reality.

The Truckee Community Theater launches its first youth theater production this weekend when it presents “Into the Woods Jr.” Friday-Sunday at the Truckee Community Arts Center on Church Street.

“Into the Woods Jr.” a whimsical, comedic musical, unravels the story of a childless baker and his wife who enter the woods to break a witch’s spell. Along the way, they encounter a bevy of storybook characters — Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (and his beanstalk) and more.

“It’s a pretty challenging show,” said Simson, who noted that the majority of the young actors involved are ages 12-14. “It’s like an operetta, in that about 90 percent of the show is sung. I think considering the age of our kids, they’re doing a fantastic job stepping up, learning all the music, learning all the blocking and choreography.”

‘I LOVE THE CHALLENGE’

A couple of those performers are ninth-grader Canyon Gemme, who plays Cinderella, and eighth-grader Lily Bradley, who portrays Little Red Riding Hood. Both said they’ve embraced the test of tackling such a complicated production.

“I love the challenge, and I love working really hard toward it,” Gemme said. “Our cast is incredible; they’ve really pulled it off and pulled it all together. Every single person in our cast is so enthusiastic and naturally characteristic that they really bring the show to life.”

Added Bradley: “Most of the kids are really experienced and have been in the theater for a long time. They’re very talented and they all try really hard, and that’s what makes it come together and work.”

Perhaps the most impressive part: the 18 actors have only had 11 rehearsals to orchestrate it all. Most theater shows, especially those as complex as “Into the Woods,” have at least twice as many.

“It’s definitely been a challenge trying to squeeze it all in,” said Sophie Moeller, a Reno-based actress who’s directing the show. “What these young actors have brought to the table is pretty impressive, because I wasn’t that disciplined when I was their age. I’ve had full faith in these guys from the start. It’s just really neat to see them grow and unfold.”

‘IT’S PART OF THE PASSION’

This weekend, audiences will get to see the growing and unfolding come to an apex.

“There will be a little bit of butterflies,” Gemme said. “But I’m mostly excited and curious to see what our show ends up being like. We’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time.”

Added Bradley: “I think we’re all going to be pretty happy and excited.”

Same goes for Simson who’s seeing her vision of a youth theater come to fruition. It should also be noted: The kids helped build and paint all of the sets.

“I believe in this and I’m just telling these kids ‘you’re great, you’re going to be great,’” Simson said. “One job of a community theater is to go out on a limb and try something you believe in. It’s part of the passion of doing this.”

“Into the Woods Jr.” runs 1 hour, 15 minutes and will be followed by a brief intermission, during which Halloween treats may be purchased in the lobby.

Following the intermission will be a “Happily Ever After Party” for children in the audience to meet the actors for a Q-and-A, get their programs signed by the stars of the show, and pose for pictures with them on stage.