For the last two weeks, in a gym in Kenai, more than a dozen young actors enrolled in the Triumvirate Theatre Youth Camp have been rehearsing and preparing for a showing of “The Aristocats Kids,” which is set to run at the Soldotna High School Auditorium on Friday.
Director Cooper Kelley said the campers enrolled in the program come from a wide range of backgrounds; some of the kids have been onstage before, some are learning to act, sing and dance for the first time. But at the end of three weeks of work, after their performance, each of them will have been part of a real theater production.
“These kids feel like they put on a real show,” Kelley said Wednesday. “Because they did put on a real show. Real theater, people in the seats, costumes and sets.”
During Wednesday’s rehearsal, the campers were running through part of the show — Kelley encouraging them to review their scripts, memorize their cues, and practice their choreography.
The camp teaches theater — acting, dancing, singing and more — but Kelley said the campers also build confidence, learn public speaking and work as a team. They have to work quickly to put a whole show together in only 15 days.
“Day one, none of the campers have had the music or looked at the script,” he said. “We don’t have roles cast; we just have a bunch of kids coming together. By day 15, we have a show.”
In “Aristocats,” the campers are putting on an adaptation of a familiar Disney film. Most are already familiar with the songs. Kelley said that makes putting the show together a little easier, but also that the actors have to contend with their preexisting expectations, find their own take.
Playing “fun, carefree and jazzy” O’Malley is Ella Mallard, who said “Aristocats” would be her first time acting, but not her first time performing onstage. She said the camp taught her to accept her own mistakes — “just be chill with yourself.”
Mallard said she enjoyed acting, that she intended on doing more of it. To act, she said, is to find different parts of yourself to put on display.
The villainous Edgar is brought to life by Holden McGarry, who said he gets a lot of fun opportunities to sing. Though he was excited for the opportunity to get out and put on a show, he said he hadn’t ever acted before, and that when he came into the camp he wasn’t expecting to spend so much time in the spotlight.
At the camp, McGarry said he’d been picking up terms from the theater lexicon like “blocking,” and that the biggest challenge had been choreography.
“It’s a lot of dance moves you have to remember,” he said. “Lines are in your head, you can just say them.”
Portraying Marie, one of the titular “Aristocats,” is drama camp veteran Tatum Anderson.
“She always wants to be first in line; she pushes her brothers all the time and she wants to get all the attention,” Anderson said.
Playing that character, she said, is fun because she gets to live in that mindset — to demand the spotlight. Her favorite part of the production is the dancing.
“You get to have fun onstage and let your heart sing,” she said.
She said she was “just a little” nervous. Just the right amount.
Next week, some of the campers will be on a stage, in front of an audience, for the first time. Kelley said he’s excited for them to experience the applause, the cheers and the laughter.
“The Aristocats Kids” will play in the Soldotna High School auditorium on Friday, July 28 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online through triumviratetheatre.org or at the door.
For more information about Triumvirate Theatre, visit facebook.com/triumviratetheater.