Flourish in the Footlights celebrates 10th anniversary

April 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Let’s set the scene… The show: Rumpelstiltskin. The setting: the castle courtyard. The three narrators are trying to help our fair maiden Briana impress the Queen. These seasoned actors are improvising, coming up with different tasks for Briana to act out so she can really show the Queen her stuff. It’s a hilarious moment played out perfectly on Metropolis’ main stage.

The part we didn’t mention? These seasoned actors are young adults with special needs, participating in our Flourish in the Footlights program, now in its 10th season.

“It’s probably my favorite moment in the show,” notes program director Megan Willhite. “The guys have gotten really good at coming up with some interesting things to say and the actress playing Briana is a great sport about acting out whatever they shout out at her.”

“Flourish in the Footlights has always been successful and rather groundbreaking,” says Metropolis performing arts education director Michelle Shaver. “But we made some exciting changes this year that we believe will show in the final performance on April 22 and really let the actors shine.”

One of the more remarkable aspects of Flourish in the Footlights is that the ensemble members collaborate to write their own adaptation of the story. “We didn’t want to change the writing process because it’s integral to the program and ensures the story belongs to the actors,” says Willhite.

Instead, Willhite, Shaver and the program assistants chose the story early on based on criteria such as number of characters, style of the story and number of scenes. “In the past,” says Willhite, “our classes in the fall focused on acting techniques and then we would begin to incorporate our specific story in December. This year, we started working with Rumpelstiltskin in October. We used the characters and the plot points as inspiration for the class activities. By the time we got to the production phase of the program, the students knew the story really well and jumped right into the adaptation process. This allowed us to start the script writing process much sooner, and also made the adaptation process move more quickly because the students knew the story so well.”

They also made changes to the casting process this year. In the past, actors would improvise as different characters while they created the script. This way, everyone got to try their hat at different characters and expand their acting range. “This year we were able to give the actors the chance to try out all the different characters in the techniques class, so for the first time, we cast the show before we wrote the script,” says Willhite. “This has really made a difference for the actors when it comes to memorization, and it improved the fluidity and coherence of the story overall.”

With their performance just a few short weeks away, Rumpelstiltskin is really taking shape. “These changes have given our actors time to become confident in their roles and comfortable with their actions so we can highlight each actor’s strengths and talents,” says Willhite.

Flourish in the Footlights presents their adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin on April 22 at 7pm at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Call 847.577.2121 for tickets.

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