Kyrene School District’s Community Theatre is ending its four-week summer session by presenting Disney’s ‘101 Dalmations, KIDS’’ show on stage tonight, June 27, and tomorrow.
Of the 37 students involved in this year’s play, 18 hail from Ahwatukee.
Two performances are on tap beginning with their 7 p.m.opening tonight at Kyrene Del Pueblo Middle School in Chandler, and the two-hour production continues tomorrow at the same time.
Popularized by the 1996 movie starring Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels and Joely RIchardson, the play follows Roger and Anita Radcliffe and the puppies born to their Dalmatian dogs, Pongo and Perdita. The colorful villain Cruella De Vil has the litter abducted, hoping to make fur coats from their skins.
Playing Cruella De Vil with her signature two-tone hair and outsized personality is Isabella Collins, a seventh grader at Kyrene Aprende. She said she got the part even though she couldn’t attend the auditions.
“I was actually sick the day of auditions so I sent a video of when I did ‘Annie’,” she said. “Typically, I’m not very outgoing and Cruella has such a big personality, so it’s fun to play her.”
Isabella, 12, who has been in Childsplay productions, said she likes the transformation that occurs when stepping on stage.
“When I’m onstage, I feel like I’m a different person,” she said.
The role of Roger Radcliffe is performed by Darren “D.J.” Ross, a seventh grader at Kyrene Centennial Middle School who echoes those comments.
“What I like about Roger is he’s very enthusiastic and fun. And I like becoming someone else different because I’m not usually enthusiastic,” he said. “But I feel like I can be comfortable playing this character.”
This is the 11-year-old’s first summer play with the Kyrene Community Theatre.
“I always wanted to be in a play. I had to audition, and that went very well. I was surprised. I’ve had fun already, and I think I’ll continue doing theatre because it’s great fun,” Darren said
Kyrene Altadena eighth grader Grace Calhoun landed the role of Anita and said the character is close to her in several ways.
“Anita is a very artsy person and myself, I’m very artsy doing crafts and art. And yet, she’s also a different character than me,” Grace said. “She has a different kind of style like wearing flowery dresses.”
Grace, 13, has been with the Kyrene Community Theatre for four years and feels more comfortable than first-timers because she knows many of the people involved on and backstage.
“There are two high school kids and me, and we know each other and how we work. It’s fun to see familiar faces, but good to learn to reach out to other people and get to know them,” she said.
Among those she lauds is Lexi Artusa-Sirota, backstage manager for this production.
“Lexi is amazing,” Grace said. “She’s a really great actress and a great stage manager.”
Kyrene Centennial Middle School eighth grader Phoenix Torres plays Pongo, the puppies’ father.
“I like how he’s sort of the protective father, and he’s sort of sarcastic, and I am too,” Phoenix said. “This is my first Kyrene Theatre part but I’ve been in two school theater club plays and had a part in ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.’ What I really like about it is it transfers you to a different world, and you get to be the center of attention.”
Phoenix said he hopes to pursue theater in high school and beyond.
“I enjoy theater a lot and I’ve heard the Mountain Pointe teachers are amazing. And I’m definitely going to do it when I get older. Maybe Hollywood because I’d be more memorable in movies and they’re different than plays,” he said.
Helping the students in the wings is Artusa-Sirota, a Mountain Pointe High School junior who had her acting debut at age five at Childsplay in Tempe.
“Technically this is my first year as stage manager though I helped in that capacity at last year’s play,” she said, adding:
“The best part of being a stage manager is being backstage and seeing the kids so excited about what they’re about to do,” said Lexi, 16 who is involved with theater at Mountain Pointe.
She is also shares student directing honors with Lexi Powers, a Mountain Pointe senior.
Directing this newest summer play for Kyrene Community Theatre is Kristi Mabee, theater teacher at Centennial Middle School, An ASU alum with a degree in theatre, after graduating she worked as a character performer for Disney.
“These past few weeks working with the Kyrene kids has been so much fun. I am so proud of all we have accomplished in this short time,” said Mabee. “I know they’ll shine onstage,”
Shea Hunter of Ahwatukee, who is co-directing, said, “Growing up in Ahwatukee, I attended Ahwatukee Children’s Theatre until I found my place on my high school executive theatre officer board. I had the incredible opportunity to serve as state thespian officer for the Arizona Chapter of the International Thespian Society,”
She earned a degree in performance for stage and screen at ASU.
Celine Durney, who holds a degree in choral music education from Northern Arizona University, is also co-directing.
“While music and singing is my primary passion, I love any opportunity that comes my way to step into the theater world,” said Durney. “Getting to know and work with the cast and crew of ‘101 Dalmatians’ has been such a blast, and it will be an excellent experience to see the culminating result of all their wonderful talents and hard work up on the stage.”
Marisa Dickerson, program coordinator of Kyrene Community Education, served as assistant director for this Summer Community Theatre program production.
“This is my second year assisting in the coordination of the show. I have a passion for the arts so this is a wonderful opportunity to be a part of each summer,” she said, adding:
“During the school year I work as a program coordinator for Kyrene’s Community Education department, working with youth enrichment and coordinating before and after school classes taught by teachers and outside vendors.”
Kyrene Community Theatre’s summer program began in 2007 with the production of “Annie Jr.” In the ensuing summers, productions have included “Grease” “The Little Mermaid Jr.” and “Fiddler on the Roof Jr.”