Contributed by Stephen Moen
It’s such a harmless thing to make a wish. Or is it?
Activate Drama takes you into the world of fairy tale with two performances of Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s classic musical, Into the Woods, at North Carolina Wesleyan College’s Dunn Center for the Arts on July 15 and 16, 2016.
The plot of this fractured fairy tale centers on a group of stories including, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk. In the first half, the audience follows the characters as they venture into a nearby forest to try and obtain their desired wishes such as love, money, or beauty. The second half allows the audience to see the characters’ lives after getting the wishes. It also shows what happens after the “Happily Ever After” moment where fairy tales usually end.
Into the Woods is a story full of comedy, twists, and universal themes such as “Be careful what you wish for,” and “Cherish what you already have before wanting more.”
Melissa Ricketts Malcolm is the director of this production. “We think it is important for people to see this production because we are all on a journey,” says Malcolm. “We all put our faith in things, the wrong people, and ourselves at the wrong times. Sometimes our innocence or our world is shattered because of the choices we made…sometimes by the choices of others. As you will see in our story, it’s not whether you will experience trouble, but how you deal with the trouble when it happens that is the most important.”
Into the Woods is the second production of the summer for Activate Drama, a non-profit theater organization performing a total of three productions this summer. It presents new challenges for Activate. While Activate normally produces Broadway JR shows (the musicals are shortened to hour-long adaptations performed by actors eighteen years old or younger) Into the Woods is a full-length musical. The college-aged interns, adult staff, and crew members who normally help run the shows for the K-12 camps are the actors for Into the Woods. This includes Danelle Cauley, the Artistic Director of Activate. It is a challenge they are ready and excited to accept.
“There are many challenges in producing Into the Woods as it is an incredibly difficult music score with demanding acting roles all combined together in a fast-paced and fun adventure,” says Cauley. “Activate is rising to the challenges and taking theatre up another level in Rocky Mount by choosing to produce this level of show in a summer stock slot. Summer stock is a type of theatre schedule where a company commits to producing multiple shows in a short space of time to help train the next generation of theatre artists and to entertain the community.”
Tickets for Into the Woods can be obtained at the Dunn Center north entrance from 4-7pm, July 5-8, 2016. Box office hours switch to 8:15-10am and 4-6pm, July 11-14, 2016. Tickets will also be available before the show each night. Performances are July 15 and July 16 at 7pm. The cost is $10 for students and seniors and $15 for general admission.
Activate advises this production for ages 10 and up due to frightening and some unsuitable content for younger audiences. Children under age 6 will not be permitted.
Professionals Join Cast of “Into the Woods”
Activate Drama is a non-profit theater organization. In addition to Into the Woods, Activate has performed Broadway JR shows, which are an hour long and feature young community actors. This will be their first full-length production with the summer staff serving as actors and crew. Because of the increased difficulty, the organization is lifting their production to an even higher level by calling professionals to help in different aspects of the show. NCWC is co-producing the summer stock season of three shows and there are over 25 college interns and young adult staff on board.
On the Production side of things, the troupe is pulling in three professionals. Rob Berls, a professor at University of North Carolina-Asheville, joins the team as Set and Light Designer. Melissa Ricketts Malcolm is the Director for this production. She is a founding board member of Activate Drama and has worked in community, educational, university and professional theatre as a director and stage manager for 25 years. For Conductor, Activate is bringing in Chuck Taft. Chuck currently serves as Music Director and Conductor for the Haywood Arts Regional Theater, Music Director of BioFlyer Productions, Music Director and Conductor of the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre, Music Director of the Hendersonville Little Theatre, Director of the Reuter Center Singers – UNC Asheville, Director of the Givens Estates Choir, and Director of Worship at Biltmore United Methodist Church.
The cast is blessed to have professional actors as well. Carly Prentis Jones, known to Raleigh audiences for many performances including Invisible Productions’ Where We Are Meant to Be, joins the cast as Rapunzel. Danelle Cauley, the Artistic Director of Activate, has 25 years of experience in educational theater work and joins the cast as the Witch. Danelle earned her BFA in performance from IUP and MFA in acting from the UNCG. Jim Lowdermilk, a local favorite in the acting community, has spent the past 16 years participating in over 50 productions in Nash and Edgecombe counties as an actor, director, set designer/builder, and costume maker. He joins as the Narrator of the story.
It is not just the interns who are excited to have the professionals. As Jones says, “I am so happy to be working with such a talented cast of young performers and with this Director, Melissa Ricketts Malcolm, who also worked with me on my first professional production after college. She always has a strong vision for her productions but also gives room to performers to create their own characters and make strong acting choices.”
“I could not turn down the opportunity to work with this amazingly talented group of young people in a professional environment on an immensely fun show,” says Lowdermilk on why he agreed to join the cast. “This is what keeps me young!”
Why bring in professionals? Cauley explains, “We are attempting to run a summer stock program to help train the next generation of theatre artists. Students from NCWC and from other colleges around the state are attracted to dedicate their summer to helping K-12 learners grow their skills. The full-length show between our two school age camps gives these theatre artists and educators a chance to take their own learning to the next level. Having professionals involved provides modeling for our interns and opens them up to receiving training at a whole new level. If Rocky Mount wants to keep our young adults here in our city, we must provide them significant experiences in their fields of study and interest.”
With the level of professionalism in this production, it is surely not one to miss! Into the Woods performs July 15 and 16 at 7pm at the Dunn Center on North Carolina Wesleyan College, 3400 N Wesleyan Blvd, Rocky Mount NC. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors and $15 for general admission. Activate advises this production for ages 10 and up due to frightening and some unsuitable content for younger audiences. Children under age 6 will not be permitted.
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