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The ingredients for a top-notch theater production

A group of silly girls surround and gush over Gaston, played by Tristen Chamberlin, in the Alexandria Area Arts Association production Beauty and the Beast Jr. The play opened last weekend and concludes with three performances this weekend. (Annie Harman/Echo Press)1 / 5
Haley Wegner plays a stoic and believable Belle, engrossed in her favorite book.2 / 5
Everyone’s favorite, suave candlestick, Lumiere, is portrayed by Tyler Carlson, who was sure to master the iconic French accent. 3 / 5
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On May 12, 60 kids ranging from ages 9 to 18 united to put on a spectacular production for the community. With only a month to rehearse, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr. opened to the public on Thursday, June 19, at Alexandria Area Arts Association (AAAA) Theatre.

For the past four years, David Christman has been directing shows as a part of AAAA’s Student Theatre Projects program. Beauty and the Beast Jr. is the fifth show the program has put on for the public.

“We train the kids, we start them on the right track, and then we just let them go with it,” Christman said.

The first week of the program began with a dance, vocal and drama camp. Before that week ended, auditions were held and a cast list was produced. Every child who signs up is guaranteed a role in the production, with no part being too small or unimportant.

According to Christman, the total amount of time put into rehearsal this year was about four weeks.

“We had three-hour evening rehearsals every day,” Christman stated. “Then during the last week they became four hours.”

Because of the Broadway Street road construction going on throughout the summer, the program had to be moved up a couple months to allow for parking during the shows. This meant that the students began practice during the school year.

“It was really hard on some of them,” said Christman. “They were very tired between school, make up days, work, activities, and learning their lines.”

With the tight schedule, there were only seven rehearsals where the entire cast could be present at the same time.

Christman and his assistant director, Holly Wallerich, beamed with pride as they discussed how professional the kids are during the whole process.

“They don’t mess around,” Wallerich said.

The two directors agree that all the kids come together and support one another from the beginning.

“I talk with them from day one and explain that this is a family,” Christman said. “They may come in as strangers but they come together as a family.”

“They even applaud each other during the auditions,” Wallerich added.

“If these kids leave here as better actors, that’s great, but it’s not a big deal,” said Christman. “I want them to walk out generous, kind and respectful. We’re not just training actors, but well-rounded performers.”

It’s not just the young actors and actresses that make this speedy production a success.

Quincy Roers, the technical director and set and light designer, built the entire set in only a couple weeks because he believes it is important to have a set to work with as soon as possible.

As for the choreography, Lindsey Roers decided to push the limits with what the kids would be doing, regardless of the lack of space she had to work with.

“She wanted the audience to go, ‘How did they get those kids to do that?!’” Christman laughed.

The 10 staff members pulling things together quickly credit support from the parents and the community as what helps make the stage shine.

“There’s a lot of parent involvement,” Wallerich stated. “We had one mom come up to us and say, ‘You said you needed fabric, what do you need?’”

“It’s awesome how much the community supports these students,” Christman added. “This isn’t for school, it’s just different, and the students are proud of putting on a show that is worthy of selling tickets.”

With a successful opening weekend, there are still three more shows to be performed June 26-28 at 7 p.m. each night.

Annie Harman
Annie Harman is a reporter for Echo Press and The Osakis Review. She grew up in Detroit Lakes and graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire with a degree in print journalism and history in May 2012. Follow her on Twitter at annieharman
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