GREENFIELD — Chris Schaefer can’t believe she’s been leading the local children’s theater troupe, Kids Play, for over a quarter century now.
The seasoned director and occasional actor kicks off her 26th year of Kids Play this weekend when its latest production, “Supercomics,” debuts at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts in downtown Greenfield, with showtimes each day Nov. 4-6.
The show revolves around a group of stand-up comics who are prompted to trade in their microphones for superhero capes to take on a villain named Vlad the Exhaler, who is determined to destroy the town of Comedyville by spraying it with a gas that steals everyone’s sense of humor.
Schaefer said the comedian characters in the cast are fashioned after real-life comics, including The Three Stooges and Robin Williams.
Ten-year-old Reese Weitekamp’s character Mandy Standup is fashioned after “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” of the hit Amazon series by the same name. Mandy’s look and mannerisms are based on Maisel, a wise-cracking New York City housewife with an unexpected knack for comedy.
“She has her brunette wig and fancy little dress all ready to go,” said Reese’s mother, Shelly Weitekamp, who can’t wait to see her daughter make her Ricks Centre debut.
The New Palestine mom has been blown away by her daughter’s first experience in Kids Play, which is open to children in grades 3-8.
“Chris’s program is fantastic. She really expects a lot from (the kids) and gives them a lot of responsibilities. It’s a great way to just grow as a kid and as an actor. It’s been really amazing to watch,” she said.
Weitekamp said Reese has enjoyed the whole experience, and is excited for opening night. She got her first taste of acting through the Hancock County Children’s Theater over the summer, and can’t wait to do more.
Schaefer said “Supercomics” challenges young actors by teaching them to portray the unique qualities and quirks of both superheroes and stand-up comedians.
The production was well received at the Nov. 1 dress rehearsal called Dress to Impress, a Kids Play tradition for which cast members are encouraged to invite their teachers to attend.
As with each production, Schaefer can’t wait for opening night so she can show the public what her young cast can do.
Outside of the COVID pandemic, Schaefer has directed about two Kids Play productions each year. “I can’t pick a favorite, because there are so many and each one is unique,” she said.
She did splurge a bit on one particular stage element for “Supercomics” — a custom neon sign that says The Laugh Riot, which hangs on a faux brick wall similar to those seen on the stage of comedy clubs.
The director said the neon sign portrays the name of the production’s comedy club, and is the perfect backdrop for the budding young actors portraying comics on stage this weekend. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said.
Performances of this weekend’s production of “Supercomics” take place at 7 p.m. Nov. 4-6 and 2 p.m. Nov. 6 at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts, at 122 W. Main St. in Greenfield. Tickets are $5 each and can be purchased at Hometown Comics & Games, at 1040 N. State St. in Greenfield, or at the box office starting an hour before showtime.