Alot can be done with an active imagination and a bit of pop culture knowledge.
KidsPlay Inc. children’s theater presents “Sahara Nights,” a comedy by Wade Bradford based on the legend of Scheherazade and “One Thousand and One Nights.” In this version, the heroine, Sahara, attempts to tell tales to distract the Sultan, but apparently word of the original 1,001 stories has gotten around.
As director Christine Schaefer put it, “The Sultan says, ‘I’ve already heard of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves,’ and she says, ‘But, have you heard of Ali Baba and the 49ers?’” With the magic of the stage and free-flowing anachronism, old tales are mixed with appearances by characters including the Beatles and the crew from Star Trek.
The stories are performed by an eager and talented cast of kids in third through eighth grades from Hancock and surrounding counties. Many have gotten to take the stage several times in past seasons, including stars Brynn Elliott (Sahara) and Luke McCartney (Sultan), both in eighth grade and “graduating” this year from KidsPlay to move on to the world of high school theater.
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Brynn has been a KidsPlayer since third grade, and even earlier took part in CrazyLake children’s drama camp. Her experience has landed her not only the lead in the play, but also a leadership role backstage.
“It’s different,” she said. “It’s very interesting, because all these other people I’ve been with all my life, they were always older than me. They all left last year, so it’s time for Luke and I to step up and be the leads, and its a lot of pressure — but it’s fun.”
She said she also enjoys playing storyteller Sahara.
“She’s very witty, but she’s also very reserved,” Elliott said. “It’s a great part to play because it’s like me.”
Luke has been in a KidsPlay production every year since third grade, he said, with this being his second lead role. Playing the Sultan presents its own challenges.
“He’s supposed to be a whiny, bossy brat, and I try to do that as good as I can,” he said. “Basically, you’re just a whole different person when you’re on stage.”
But being the lead isn’t as important to Luke as just being part of the story.
“I don’t really care what role I get,” he said. “I just want to be a part of something. So (when auditioning) I don’t really like to write down what I want. What I do is I read the whole script and see what fits, and I just go along with it.”
Brynn, who attends Greenfield-Central Junior High, said she transferred from the Mt. Vernon district mainly for the school theater program. Luke is homeschooled, but plans to attend Eastern Hancock High School.
The kids aren’t the only ones with stories to tell. Several parents volunteer to help backstage and otherwise support the young performers. This has been a years-long commitment for Natalie Roots of Morristown, involved since son Ben was a KidsPlay kid, and now with younger siblings, fifth-grader Annika and fourth-grader Nolan, both of whom have roles in “Sahara Nights.”
In past years, “they were always backstage,” Roots said. “They couldn’t wait until they were in third grade.”
It’s not just the children who benefit from KidsPlay, she said.
“I’ve found some of my best friends by being involved in this program,” Roots said. “You’re giving your time, and paying it forward for the kids. And the veteran parents always help the new ones.”
Now the community can do its part by providing an audience. Performances are Nov. 17 to 19 at the Ricks Centre for the Arts. Tickets, $5, are available at Hometown Comics, or at the Ricks box office prior to the show.
KidsPlay Inc. children’s theatre presents “Sahara Nights,”
Nov. 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 19 at 2:30 p.m.
H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts, 122 W. Main St. Greenfield
Tickets are $5, available at Hometown Comics, 1506 N. State or at the box office an hour before the show