The Herald Bulletin

June 21, 2013

Young stars in the making

'Annie, Jr.' in production at Alexandria's Youth Theatre Camp

By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ALEXANDRIA — They’re singing and dancing and acting their hearts out. Kids in the Youth Theatre Camp at The Commons Theatre in Alexandria are going full bore on their production of “Annie, Jr.”

“These kids are having a ball,” said Sandra Jensen, organizer of the camp. This is the first season of the camp in the newly opened Commons Theatre. Laura Hicks and Kata Ewigleben are the high-energy co-directors coaching the kids.

“They keep it moving,” said Jensen. “It’s just been very fun.”

“The kids are awesome. We couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids,” said Hicks. “They have great little voices. We’re really happy that all these kids are willing and ready to sing.”

The camp has 17 kids who show up afternoons at The Commons Theatre Tuesday through Thursday through July. Each afternoon, they sing, dance, play games, rehearse and more. The youngest member of the camp is six year old Riley Martin. Bradley Jensen is the oldest at 16.

The camp is just underway in June, but the kids are already running through their scenes and songs.

They’re already making it look good, too, under the careful direction of Hicks and Ewigleben.As the kids run through the song, “Hard Knock Life,” and the script calls for them to sweep and scrub, Ewigleben coaches.

“Even though you’re busy cleaning, make sure you never stop singing,” calls out Ewigleben. She cautions the kids to keep their faces directed toward the audience. “Make sure you never turn your back.”

The kids are just eating it up. Several of the “Annie, Jr.” actors said that the singing’s the best part of the summertime experience they all seem to be enjoying to the hilt.

“It’s really, really fun,” agreed Rachael Shaver, 11. Shaver, who is new to the stage, will be playing Annie in the troupe’s production, set for July 26 and 27. “I look forward to every rehearsal.”

“I love it,” said Samantha Libler, 14, who takes on the role of the villainous Miss Hannigan. Libler comes to the Youth Theatre Camp with five years of theatre participation. She started out planning to work behind the scenes, but now finds herself on the boards instead. “This is my first out-of-school really big production. Seriously, it’s been a blast.”

“The hardest part for me is having to be so mean,” said Samantha of the role she plays. In fact, as they run through a scene, the script calls for Miss Hannigan to give a push to one of the ‘orphans.’ Samantha, however, stepping out of character, immediately recoils, and cries, “Did I hurt you?”

Everyone laughs, and it points up the very thing that Amelia Freeman, 16, says is the hardest part of working on the production. “The hardest part is not laughing,” said Freeman with an irrepressible smile.

The high energy youth camp also depends on volunteers. Recent high school grad Kayla Downey is helping out during the camp as an “orphan wrangler” among other things. Lisa Lozinak is another volunteer helping to build the sets. Jensen said parents are helping out as well, bringing snacks for the camp.

Look for the kids to be making appearances at various events before the production, helping to promote it.

“These kids are phenomenal,” said Jensen.

The play runs Friday, July 26 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, July 27, at 2 p.m. at The Commons Theatre.

Tickets will be going on sale soon, through the theatre email, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, at the 4H Fair booth, or at the door. Sponsors for the theatre camp and their performances are welcomed. For more information, contact, check out the website at or look for The Commons Theatre on Facebook.

Like Nancy Elliott on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @NancyElliott_HB, or call 640-4805.

If you go What: "Annie, Jr." by the Youth Theatre Camp Where: Commons Theatre, 204 W. Church St. When: Friday, July 26, 7 p.m., Saturday, July 27, 2 p.m. Tickets: Adults $8, Students $5, available soon, contact, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, 4H Fair booth, or at the door. More info: Sponsorships are welcome. For more info, contact , check out the website at or look for The Commons Theatre on Facebook.