Weekender

Young talent perform in ‘Cinderella’ and ‘James and the Giant Peach’

State College Area High School Thespians constructed giant wooden peaches as part of the “James and the Giant Peach” set.
State College Area High School Thespians constructed giant wooden peaches as part of the “James and the Giant Peach” set.

A man who knew a thing or two about theater once wrote that all the world’s a stage — which may be true — but the options for catching a local production of “James and the Giant Peach” or “Cinderella: A Dream Come True,” over the weekend are slightly more limited.

The State College Area High School Thespians and the Bald Eagle Area Drama Club will both launch their fall plays this weekend, bringing months of rehearsals, wardrobe fittings and set construction to a theatrical climax.

Here are a few tips for aspiring dramatists looking to follow in their footsteps.

Choose a show you love

“James and the Giant Peach” — even the title screams “family fun.”

But Claire Hanahan wasn’t sold.

The vice president of the SCAHS Thespians, Hanahan said that she was initially lukewarm to the idea of producing a show around the adventures of a boy and his magical piece of fruit.

Eventually, the complexity of the music won her over.

“We sat and listened to it and I was like, ‘I’m on board,’ ” Hanahan said.

Have a deep bench of talent

“Cinderella” marks the first time that the middle and high school students have worked together on the drama club’s fall production.

“It requires high-schoolers to take a little more of a leadership position,” Kirsten Betts, an advisor with Bald Eagle Area Drama Club, said.

Students were allowed to choose whether they wanted to be cast or crew, with both contributing equally to the creative fabric of the play — some more literally than others. A sixth grade student designed and created the costumes for “Cinderella’s” friendly neighborhood mice.

The week leading up to the play’s premiere was filled with many a late-night rehearsal.

“I think it’s really important for the kids to see how much it takes to put on a play,” Betts said.

Push yourself

There’s nothing like a little creative problem solving to really get the blood pumping.

Director Jill Campbell knew that “James and the Giant Peach” would present a host of storytelling challenges — in fact, that was part of the appeal.

“It wasn’t about performance only,” Campbell said.

For starters, there’s the back-half of that title, “James and the Giant Peach.”

During the final week of rehearsals, two wooden peaches — one huge, the other simply gigantic — sat up on the stage, representing the different stages of growth for the magically enhanced fruit.

Some of the finishing touches were still being worked out as recently as Monday, when the crew decided to add a tree stump to the set to provide a sense of scope to the peach’s transformation.

“They’ve been really fun challenges,” Campbell said.

Bring something to the page

Not everything on stage is in black and white.

Betts said that the actors and actresses of the Bald Eagle Drama Club rose to the challenge of making the roles in the script their own.

She was particularly impressed with some of the physical gestures and glances improvised by the actresses playing Cinderella’s stepsisters.

“I can just picture moments in my head that I’m just so proud of them for coming up with,” Betts said.

Know your audience

“James and the Giant Peach,” made its official debut on Thursday for a crowd of 650 third graders from the SCASD’s surrounding elementary schools.

Actor Cole Harris stressed the importance of matching his audience’s youthful enthusiasm.

“When you get here, you have to bring this insanely high energy,” Harris said.

Enjoy the moment

After months of rehearsals, it’s finally show time.

In the midst of all of those opening night jitters or countless curtain calls, try and find a quiet moment or two to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

The cast and crew of “Cinderella,” will be getting together after each performance to celebrate another curtain call come and gone.

“We have a lot of fun. They put so much time into it and this is their weekend,” Betts said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

IF YOU GO

  • What: “James and the Giant Peach”
  • When: 7 p.m. on Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 and 2 p.m. on Nov. 22
  • Where: State College Area High School, 653 Westerly Parkway, State College
  • Info: www.scasd.org/Page/28243

IF YOU GO

  • What: “Cinderella: A Dream Come True”
  • When: 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 and 2 p.m. on Nov. 22
  • Where: Bald Eagle Area High School, 751 S. Eagle Valley Road, Wingate
  • Info: www.beasd.org
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