Thursday, July 29, 2004

Summer theater keeps kids ...
on their toes

Teens work hard for Young People's Theatre before everybody goes 'Footloose!'

Since the first week of June, 80 teens from 52 schools in Cincinnati, its suburbs, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana have been swarming around the stage of Covedale Center for the Performing Arts.

What: Footloose!

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday through Aug. 8, 2 p.m. matinee Aug. 8

Where: Cincinnati Young People's Theatre, Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, 4990 Glenway Ave.

Tickets: $12, $10 students and seniors. 241-6550

What they're doing is bringing to life the phrase, "Hey, kids, let's put on a show!"

Footloose!, opening Friday, marks the 22nd year that Cincinnati Young People's Theatre has produced a summer show with teens (ages 13 to 19) performing on stage, choosing the show, building the set, working the box office and raising some of the money.

Troupe founder Tim Perrino tells them the same three things every year:

"One, we're going to do a kick-ass show. Two, you will have a summer experience. At the end of it, you won't say to yourself, 'I didn't just sit on my rear end, I did something amazing.' And three, you'll have more friends than you did when you started."

Heather Roush will start her senior year at Oak Hills High School in September. In this stage adaptation of the '80s movie musical, she plays Ariel, the wild-child daughter of a repressive minister who has banned dancing in a small town. Rebellion ensues when a city kid moves to town and starts dancing in the streets and romancing Ariel.

Roush, a pretty strawberry blonde, has been singing and dancing around her house for as long as she can remember. She started dance and piano lessons at 3. She started voice training and is working her way toward three octaves with a goal of making a career in musical theater.

She tried out for the company's West Side Story two years ago. "I didn't make it - I was devastated."

She was working the TV remote control when she first caught a section of Footloose! on VH1. She started watching because she liked Kevin Bacon's dancing. The more she watched, she thought, "Could this ever happen in a town? Wow. It would kill me, not being able to dance."

After a lot of urging, she tried out and snared the female lead, which means she's responsible for finding her own costumes (mom Lori made some of them), helping to build sets and working at fund-raisers. "I love washing cars," she says.

The teens don't raise the money to pay for the production, they raise enough to understand what it takes to put on a show.

"It's an all-encompassing program," says Perrino. It starts in January, when kids from the previous summer's show start meeting monthly. They bring in a list of shows and they get to vote. The primary criterion is that there has to be a lot of good roles for young people.

The theater has a teen board as well as an adult board, and they plan and execute the fund-raising events that go on through winter and spring.

Teens work backstage, on the sound and light boards, and run the box office under the tutelage of adults. Volunteer parents are also a big part of the equation.

The summer teen show is Perrino's favorite production every year, and that's saying a lot since he also runs Showboat Majestic and Covedale's year-round schedule.

Something else he enjoys, he says, is going to high school football games in fall "and seeing a pack of kids from different schools - and it all began here."


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