July 23, 2008

Young Actors Discover Leadership Roles In Youth Theater

By Amanda S. Coleman, The Hartford Courant, Conn.

Jul. 23--When Jon Garow directed the 30 young "munchkins" rehearsing a scene from "The Wizard of Oz" at the Ellington High School auditorium, he received some help from one of the older cast members.

Rachel Roy, 16, of Manchester, who plays Dorothy, repeated Garow's announcement to the children surrounding her, kindly reminding them to "use their left arm now" while pointing to a side of the auditorium.

"I'm very impressed with the leadership in the cast this year," said Garow, who is directing the Indian Valley YMCA's Youth Theater for the fifth year in a row.

Monday night, 54 children between the ages of 7-16 rehearsed the musical adaptation of the classic story, enthusiastically singing and dancing through numbers such as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead." They have been rehearsing for the past seven weeks.

Emma Yagaloff, 12, of South Windsor, enjoys playing the role of Glinda in the show, feeling like a leader both on and off stage.

"I like that she takes care of the munchkins; they look up to her," she said of her character, the Good Witch of the North.

Yagaloff said that this scenario translates into real life as well, as the younger actors look to her and the older cast members for theatrical guidance.

"The little kids look up to us literally and emotionally," said Bobby Gawlik, 12, of South Windsor, who plays the Tin Man. "Little kids love me."

One of the munchkins who receives tips from the older actors is Isabella Savona, 9, of Ellington, a member of the "Lullaby League," a group of three munchkin girls who perform a welcoming song and dance for Dorothy when she arrives somewhere over the rainbow.

"I've been taking dance for six years," said Savona, who studies ballet, jazz, hip-hop and acrobatics.

"I like it [being part of the Lullaby League] because it has a lot of ballet moves," she said, "and because I have a cute little voice."

Another munchkin, Kasey Lucia, 9, of South Windsor, who plays the coroner, isn't nervous to sing her solo, declaring the Wicked Witch of the East as "really most sincerely dead."

"I like performing in front of people," said Lucia, who has taken dance for seven years.

The cast contains theater veterans as well. Emily Moreau, 14, of Bolton, who plays a Jitterbug, has been in 12 shows and seen at least 15. This summer, she's keeping busy, rehearsing for the Hartford Childrens' Theatre's "Seussical" from 9 a.m to 5 p.m., and "The Wizard of Oz" from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Theater "is very liberating to me," said Moreau, who will be attending the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts next year.

The show will be performed at 7 p.m. at the Ellington High School auditorium, 37 Maple St., on July 25 and 26. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased at the door or at the Indian Valley YMCA, 375 Hartford Turnpike, Vernon.


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