By Julie Horner
There’s something about a small town. “My kids grew up doing this, they’re all adults now,” said Jennine Chadwick, Executive Director of Little People’s Repertory Theater. “They do this in the summer, help the new kids, go to college, come back.” It’s a touchstone in their lives, she says, and one of the things she loves best about doing it: the continuity. “I can’t imagine this happening in a bigger place.”
Chadwick has been involved in LPRT for 25 years. A “big picture person,” she is playwright, songwriter, and pep squad.
Everyone in the performing arts community has been trying to wing it. “People have lost so much,” Chadwick said. “We usually have about 70 kids involved in LPRT. Last year we didn’t know how many would feel comfortable getting together at all, but we got 50 kids. Pretty remarkable that we’d retain that.” LPRT produced the visually spectacular (and technically challenging) Cinderacula & The Campaign Of Unfortunate Events — in the middle of the pandemic. Written by Chadwick, directed by Jocelyn McMahon-Babalis, and filmed over the summer of 2020 with 10 kids allowed on stage at a time under covid restrictions at Park Hall in Ben Lomond, the movie premiered in late March at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Drive-In. “I wrote it like a movie knowing that we would be green-screening. We had small rehearsal groups, knowing we couldn’t be together.” If you build it, they will come.
It’s been hard financially. They usually do 10 sell-out shows a year at Park Hall, but the venue has had to remain closed to the public, so they have been using the little purple LPRT Annex on Mill Street for rehearsals and more. After the fire, they opened the tiny space to families who lost their homes to the CZU fire so they could use the Internet and do office work. “It’s been a rough year.”
Waylaid like everybody in the arts community, people forget about theater, especially children’s theater. “We’ve gotten some grants,” Chadwick said, “and we’ve got a lot of hope.”
This summer Little People’s Repertory Theater presents Alice’s Avengers in Underland, Alice in Wonderland with a twist. There will be lots of super heroes, Chadwick promises, and Taylor Swift songs. Chadwick originally produced the show nine years ago and will freshen it up with more of her legendary music mashups. “The fun for them is that they have this contemporary reference that the kids are into, and I put in songs that everybody loves to hate. It’s become a cult thing.”
Rehearsals for Alice’s Avengers in Underland begin the week of June 14, and that’s when the production team will do their casting. Kids don’t have to audition, just sign up. Everyone gets a part, from age 8 to 14, even junior players as young as 2, so they have a chance to be in the production. The show will run Wednesday, July 28 through Sunday, August 1 at Park Hall in Ben Lomond. Register at lprt.org
“We’re rewriting the fairytale,” Chadwick said, “and we’re not going anywhere.”
Photos of LPRT’s 2013 production of Alice in Underland contributed by LPRT