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The circle of theatre

by Lenise Willis

It takes more than a colorful mask to capture the spirit of Rafiki, and it also takes much more than remembering lines to put on a good show. The kids at Community Theatre of Greensboro are learning just that for their production of The Lion King, Jr. The performance is the culmination of the Lion King Jr. Experience, a unique program that involves local children in all aspects of a theatrical production.

About 50 children came together this summer to prepare for the classic tale and not only rehearsed, but also participated in a series of pre-show workshops that focused on everything from African mask making to dance to cultural studies.

“It gives them a sense of ownership of the show,” said Rozalynn Fulton, youth programs director. “(The children) have been able to put in more involvement than in any other production.”

“It’s so rewarding,” Fulton continued. “As we get older, we see these kids as the future of theatre. Seeing them get excited about helping and take charge has been really rewarding.”

Fulton said the Disney classic is the perfect show to help the children to learn the field, not just because it provides a wonderful opportunity for set and costume design, but also because the storyline is a great fit.

“It’s so much of a story of learning to accept others and believe in yourself,” Fulton said. She added that the production has pulled together nicely with “phenomenal choreography, unbelievable costumes and makeup,” and a set design full of surprises, too.

Fulton is most excited about the sunrise and sunset created for the show, which she said was made possible by a very creative dad. After all, the sun is such an important component to not only set the scene of a warm African safari, but it’s also a large part of the circle of life.

“It will be Broadway on Elm Street for sure,” Fulton promised about its quality. “Some of the production mimics the Broadway show, but other parts have a different spin. There are also elaborate head pieces and costumes (which the children made).”

The masks, costumes and other props were made in the preshow workshops, which ran periodically from June to August.

The workshops were just as much a component of the experience as the production itself. Because the production is part of a learning experience, the theater had to host workshops and make sure the children were involved in every aspect in order to even receive the license for the production. Each workshop lasted for about three hours.

Children learned how to apply their own makeup for the show, built puppets, designed props and costumes, and even took African drumming and dancing lessons.

Fulton said that it’s been especially satisfying to see the older kids step up and take more of a leadership role, even quieting the younger children’s chit-chat in order to remain productive. The children involved range in age from eight to 17.

To get more children involved, the show is actually double cast, which also means each show, highlighting the loveable characters of Simba, Rafiki, Timone and Pumba traveling from Pride Rock to the jungle, will be unique. !

WANNA go?

Community Theatre of Greensboro presents The Lion King, Jr. Friday through Sunday and Oct. 1-4 at its Starr Theatre, 520 S. Elm St., Greensboro. Tickets are $10-$18. For tickets and more information visit ctgso.org or call 333-7469.

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