Putting the kids in charge
Community theater group in Sandown gives power to the students
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s a new youth theater group in New Hampshire, and this one has a twist. The kids are supposed to be running the show.
Lexi Deschene, 15, is the assistant secretary for Best Foot Forward Productions board of directors, based in Sandown.
“There’s no conversation regarding whether or not rumors surrounding the group’s happenings are truth or gossip, because everyone is allowed to sit in on board meetings and even the youngest members have the option to be in the know and voice their opinions. In terms of the creative aspects of theater, Christine [the group’s president and one of its directors] and other adults on the crew are willing to apprentice any of the cast members in any part of theater (directing, lighting, sound, choreography, costuming, etc.),” Deschene wrote in an e-mail. The six directors are ages 13 through 16, although the officers must be legal adults.
The concept for Best Foot Forward was developed by Christine Frydenborg and her fiancé, Timothy Dargon, while they were chatting about children’s theater on a car trip. They thought kids should have more say in the process. Dargon is a Portsmouth theater veteran and Frydenborg has been in theater since she was five. “We’ve kind of been around the block,” Dargon said. Most of the students involved have participated in the Palace Theatre, Peacock Players or Kids Coop.
BFF held auditions Sunday Aug. 20, for their first show, Bye, Bye Birdie, to be performed Nov. 10 through 19 at Sandown Town Hall.
Anyone who auditions for a BFF musical at least gets an ensemble part. Young children are turned off theater when they are cut, Dargon and Frydenborg have found.
The BFF play selection committee, made up of kids plus one adult, has scheduled shows through the summer of 2007. Two for Murder won over Neil Simon’s Rumors and Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit as a straight play because of the larger cast and lighter content, Dargon said. Oliver is their next musical and Macbeth will be performed next summer. BFF auditions are usually open for actors age 8 through 21.
“That’s because we felt kids were getting thrown to the wolves when they get out of high school.... it’s really hard to get cast sometimes,” Dargon said. Macbeth is open for ages 14 through 25. BFF hopes to later add an adult track and get kids to rotate into board officer positions as they age.
The group plans to serve about 17 towns surrounding Sandown. “There’s a lot of kids who would like to work but can’t because of distance or timing,” Dargon said. They also felt youth theater fees are high for working families. BFF membership per family is $45 per show or $75 per year.
Getting kids to take control seems to be working. BFF kids are already raising funds to cover production costs. They raised $250 from a four-hour car wash, and will host a mini golf tournament at Victorian Park in Salem Aug. 26. Kids made a Web site and a Myspace page for the theater and cleaned out the backstage of the Sandown Town Hall theater.
Olivia Papp, 13, is the youngest BFF board member. "Being on the board has been a great learning experience because not only are we part of the decision-making process, we also learn about starting and handling a theater group, which is something that I feel you can only understand through experiencing it.
While we are part of the decision making process we also are given direction in most of the work that needs to be done so that we are not overwhelmed, but still hold a substantial roll. I think it's great to be different than any other theater groups out there," Papp wrote in an e-mail.