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‘Wonderland’ gives kids creative outlet this summer

Small groups of children appeared on the morning of June 16 on a stage in the gym at Territorial Elementary School to practice their lines for an upcoming musical.

They auditioned for the parts of the Red and White queens and Alice from the musical “Wonderland!” before an audience of other children and adult staffers. Actor/playwright James DeVita penned the musical, which is loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” the sequel to the class children’s tale “Alice in Wonderland.”

Forty-six children ages 7 through 12 signed up for “Wonderland!” through the Chino Valley Parks and Recreation Department, which is offering the musical as its 2005 Summer Youth Program. The free program started June 13 with the airing of a movie and will conclude with free performances at 7 p.m. July 21 and July 22 in the school’s gym.

The department has offered the program through the Chino Valley Unified School District for three years, and this is the second year that it has focused on the performing arts, said Cheryl Ham, program coordinator.

The town budgeted $10,000, which also covers the wages of the six part-time employees, play director Breanna Heil said. The school district provides free lunches at the end of the morning sessions to the children ­ – and the community.

The children attend the sessions from 8:45 to 11:45 a.m. weekdays at Territorial School for six weeks. The Boys & Girls Club of Central Yavapai is running an afternoon program through July 22 at Del Rio Elementary School.

Their involvement in the musical enables them to improve their vocabulary and speaking skills, and learn about the theater, said Heil, the librarian and computer teacher at Territorial.

Wonderland!” features at least 35 parts, Heil said, adding, “We will have some extra parts, too.” However, she can name the main characters on only one hand.

She said children who do not get parts will handle other aspects of the musical, such as running the lights and sound system.

“All the kids will have a hand in helping with the sets, the props, the costumes,” she said. The stage will be a giant checkerboard , and the pupils will paint the backdrop.

Heil said that she planned on Monday (June 20) to choose the parts and the assignment for the kids.

After each rehearsal, on June 16, Heil clapped her hands and said, “Good job!” She said they practice their lines at home as well.

“I need a good snorer,” Heil told the children, looking for volunteers. “Do you want to snore?” she asked a boy.

She asked for a showing of hands, and four children appeared on the stage. One child lay on the stage floor.

At around 11:40 a.m., the children left their chairs and headed to a table where they used crayons and paper bags to design puppets.

“I messed up on my puppet,” one boy told Heil.

“You can have another one,” she responded.

Heil said the aspiring actors play-act during breaks, and play games such as Charades.

She said that she also plans a field trip in which the children will shop for props and costumes.

Heil said several children show a lot of potential, adding, “There are a few that really impress me – some of the younger ones.”

The children said they had a variety of motivations for participating in the six-week program.

Aspiring actress Puja Robinson, who attends Heritage Middle School, said that she signed up because “it sounded like it would be good fun.”

Puja, 11, said she wants either the parts of the Red of White queens. “The Red queen has a bad temper,” she said. “She has a lot of authority. She is so mean.”

By contrast, Puja said the White Queen is “so clumsy and forgettable.”

“That just spells me,” said Puja’s friend, Katie Zientarski, who attends Mingus Springs Charter School.

Katie, 12, said that she signed up because she has participated in several plays at her school and “I was hoping it would help me with my singing.”

She said she wants either the part of the Red Queen or Hatta, who talks in riddles.

Bill Glazer, a student at Territorial, said he signed up because he wanted to have something to do during the summer break because two of his closest friends are gone for the summer.

He said that he wants the part of the Red Knight because red is one of his favorite colors. He added that his friend, Garrett Smith, wants the part of the White Knight “so we can do a scene together.”

Bill, 10, said that he wants to join the Marines when he grows up. His father, Leigh, is a Vietnam War veteran.

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