From July 14-23, the Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) is showing Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka Jr.” at the Sunnyvale Community Theatre. This production has a small cast of 14 actors and dancers. At the July 13 dress rehearsal, many of these cast members, ages 8 and up, skillfully pulled off playing more than one character. The show offers comedic moments and depicts the value of familial bonds in the life of the young protagonist, Charlie (Coco LaMarche).
This particular production is connected to the SCP Summer Spotlight Program, a five-year old mentorship program that allows kids from ages 12-18 to take on creative and staff roles in a show.
“We have an assistant director, a vocal director, a stage manager, a set designer, a costume designer, and a lighting designer who are all high school students,” said Katie Elder, Show Co-Producer.
“‘Willy Wonka Jr.’ tells a story about a man trying to find a successor for his chocolate factory,” Elder said. “Just like Willy Wonka finds Charlie as his successor to the factory, we have teenagers filling the adult staff’s roles here.”
Santa Clara resident Jiesselle Taganas, 15, is an Assistant Stage Manager. Taganas has usually been onstage as a cast member with SCP. Participating in the mentorship program has given her a chance to see the other side of a theatrical production for the first time.
“My job is to ‘call the show’ which is to give orders to the crew,” Taganas said. “I have a headset that connects to all the crew. I basically tell the crew when to place the light cues or change the set onstage.
“I also made a couple of props for the set; other people and I made the lollipops for ‘The Candyman’ song,” Taganas continued. “In one scene, Grandpa Joe and Charlie start floating. That’s hard to portray on a stage but we had a cool take on it. There are these stair platforms that the actors climb up and we have a board from the sky lowering down to show the room shrinking. I supervise this stunt. We’ve also helped the actress who plays Violet try on the blow up suit. The suit blows up as she sings her song.”
Not only does the mentorship program offer a hands-on learning opportunity for adolescent fans of theater, such as Taganas, younger cast members can take on bigger roles when the older kids are working behind-the-scenes in the production.
“We have an eight-year-old in a speaking role; she’s one of the five main kids who gets to go to Willy Wonka’s factory,” Elder said. “Our oldest participants are not onstage. The summer program opens up more characters for our younger participants to play. This summer is the first chance for some of the younger kids to have their first speaking role or solo.”
Visit www.sunnyvaleplayers.org/summerspotlight to purchase tickets for the show.