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Dharma Tilley listens to instructions during a rehearsal earlier this week. She is playing the title role in the musical for Friday's production. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
Dharma Tilley listens to instructions during a rehearsal earlier this week. She is playing the title role in the musical for Friday's production. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

Kaylenn Sanford, 12, (left) and Katie Brown, 12, practice their sword play during a break in rehearsals for
Kaylenn Sanford, 12, (left) and Katie Brown, 12, practice their sword play during a break in rehearsals for "The Lady Pirates of Captain Bree." (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

Kids practice their moves during a rehearsal for
Kids practice their moves during a rehearsal for "The Lady Pirates of Captain Bree," presented by the Hancock County Children's Theater at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Greenfield-Central High School. The summer program is in its 28th year and involves 117 local students. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)


GREENFIELD — The first time Dharma Tilley saw “The Lady Pirates of Captain Bree,” she was 5 years old. On Friday, the now-14-year-old will star in the musical she fell in love with almost a decade ago.

Dharma is one of 117 local students participating in the Hancock County Children’s Theater program this year. The program brings children from throughout the county together to learn all the aspects of putting on a musical, from learning lines to directing spotlights, in just a few weeks’ time. “The Lady Pirates of Captain Bree,” with Dharma playing the title role on Friday and eighth-grader Julianna Ackerman taking the lead Saturday, marks the 28th year for the program.

Children’s theater draws participants from grades 4 through 8, but Dharma said she has felt a part of the program every summer for as long as she can remember because her mother, Anne Tilley, is the program’s choreographer.

Every so often, the program recycles a show students have performed in the past. “The Lady Pirates of Captain Bree” last hit the stage in 2005, when a young Dharma watched eagerly from the sidelines.

“I remember the ship being on stage kind of like this,” Dharma said at a recent rehearsal, pointing to the elaborate set, “and it was the coolest thing ever.”

Now, the pressure is on for the recent graduate of St. Michael School.

On top of remembering all her dance steps and song lyrics, Dharma has 198 lines to memorize.

But who’s counting?

“Normal people would not try to do a musical in three weeks,” Dharma said. “It’s not very long at all.”

Director Pam Johnson said the show was such a hit with audiences in 2005 that she decided to reprise it with a new cast of students.

“They’ve been after me for several years to bring it back,” she said. “It was very, very popular.”

But ask those involved, and they’ll say the children’s theater experience is less about preparing the perfect show and more about the friendships they make along the way.

“I love that we’re all friends, and we can all do these things together over the summer,” said Marin Anness, 12. “We come here because we want to.”

For Marin, who will be a seventh-grader next year at Doe Creek Middle School, an interest in theater started with her older sister, Melissa Anness, who has also participated in the program.

“I knew I wanted to be on stage just like her,” Marin said.

Though Melissa has outgrown the opportunity to be on stage with the children’s theater program, she returned this year to help out behind the scenes.

And while her younger sister once idolized her, Melissa says she is the one who has been impressed as she watches Marin go through the program.

“I love watching her,” she said. “We fight sometimes on set as to what to do, but in the end, I think what she does is right. She tries her hardest. She motivates everyone, and she gets along with everyone, and that’s what I’ve always admired.”

As one of a small army of volunteer helpers, Melissa has also discovered a new talent for working backstage.

“I just realized how much I love teaching these kids,” she said. “Even though I don’t get to be on stage any more, it’s still the same feeling because it’s the same love. Words can’t describe the way I feel about theater.”

ABOUT THE SHOW

If you go: Tickets to “The Lady Pirates of Captain Bree,” 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Greenfield-Central High School, are $6 and may be purchased at the door or reserved in advance by calling (317) 462-6222.

 

Below is a cast list (note that all major roles are double cast, so the cast is different each night).

 

Friday night cast:

Captain Bree – Dharma Tilley

Old Pirate – Leah Olin

Jane – Allison Stair

Molly – Alexis Zell

Josephine – Elaine Hilton

Gabriella – Avery Cronk

Shawna – Emma Baker

Patty – Lydia Jones

Maggie – Jordan Brickler

Georgia – Chelsea Miller

Madam Prescott – Carmina Wilson

Samuel Prescott – Nick Capen

Julia Prescot – Dillon Boyer

Captain Jennings – Ian Cole

Fergus – A.J. Dougherty

Professor Bidwell – Gage Klenotic

Thomas –Isaac Baker

Cook – Rachel Presslor

John – Corbin Tilley

Jack – Coy Walden

George – Bryce Miller

Admiral Moore – Jeremiah Moloney

Non-speaking roles:

Officer 1 – Christian Bell

Officer 2 – Hayden Lohner

Officer 3 – Katie Brown

Officer 4 – Kaylenn Sanford

First mate – Marin Anness

 

Saturday night cast:

Captain Bree – Julianne Ackerman

Old Pirate – Ashlyn Ackerman

Jane – Savannah Watts

Molly –Abbey Martin

Josephine – Ivy Rowe

Gabriella – Corie Lytle

Shawna – Madison Davis

Patty – Gabrielle Pritt

Maggie – Leah Roller

Georgia – Abby Brown

Madam Prescott – Cameron

Crouch

Samuel Prescott – Tyler Pipkin

Julia Prescot – Sarah Stutz

Captain Jennings – Zach George

Fergus – Michael Weiland

Professor Bidwell – Jake Roberts

Thomas – Jack Keller

Cook –Lorena Meyer

John – Kiah Hix

Jack – Griffin Lohner

George – Dean Max Roberts

Admiral Moore – Cody Smitley

Non-speaking roles:

Officer 1 – Christian Bell

Officer 2 – Hayden Lohner

Officer 3 – Katie Brown

Officer 4 – Kaylenn Sanford

First mate –Anyssa Adams

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