Teen Players: They Have Serious Fun, But Also Are Transformed Through Theatre


by 
Tania Thompson
 | May 02, 2017
The Cast of Secret in the Wings

THE TEEN PLAYERS CAST FOR THE SECRET IN THE WINGS (clockwise from top left): Liam McHugh, Tejas Dhindsa, Henry Ficcadenti, Joshua Myran, Katherine Parrish, Mitchell Huntley, Grace Tomblin Marca, Saul Richardson, ​Emme O'Toole, ​Kelsey Bray, Amanda Fassett, Lauren Lyons, Sarah Sparks, Olivia Drury​ and Jamie Ostmann

After school and on weekends, the Teen Players from South Coast Repertory’s Theatre Conservatory have been rehearsing for a spring production—the fairy tale-inspired play called The Secret in the Wings (May 13-21, Nicholas Studio).

“I love how the show is so whimsical and tells the stories of some not-so-well-known fairy tales,” says high school junior Lauren Lyons about her Teen Players debut. She has fun portraying a variety of characters, but also finds moments that challenge her as an actor.

“This is a play about the art and power of storytelling,” says Hisa Takakuwa, who is directing the production and also is director of the Conservatory educational programs at SCR. “As part of this process, many in the ensemble have been called upon to use skills other than acting, such as choreographing, composing or playing or singing music.”

Among the Grimm Brothers-like fairy tales within the play are The Three Blind Queens, The Princess Who Wouldn’t Laugh, The Three Snake​-Leaves, Allerleirauh, The Seven Swans, or Silent for Seven Years and Stolen Pennies.

For Takakuwa, it’s important for the ensemble shows to speak through her students’ creative voices. These are some of SCR’s most talented and dedicated students, who audition for the Players (Junior, Teen and Summer Players) after at least two years in Conservatory classes.

“To witness the Players come together as a group, push themselves to take new challenges and grow over the course of the year is truly inspiring,” says Takakuwa.

Meet the cast from The Secret in the Wings.


Name: Kelsey Bray

Hometown: Trabuco Canyon
School: Orange County School of the Arts, Senior.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: Approximately 10 years ago.
Other Players Productions Include: Cinderella, Seussical, Annie, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, The Nightingale, Bliss, David Copperfield and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Roles in The Secret in the Wings: Nursemaid, Royal Dancing Couple, Lady-in-Waiting, Third Singer, Allerleira, Son, Child.
What do you like most about the play?
The seven stories all follow the ​framing device of the original Beauty and the Beast story but, in some way, they all question the difference between a childlike innocence and having to become a sensible adult.
What do you like about rehearsals?
I am always on my feet during rehearsals and, for every story, I have to be 100% physically engaged to use my rehearsal time to the fullest.
What do you like best about acting classes at SCR?
Always being able to make a fool out of myself because I am in a safe space to do so. I love being able to let go of everything ​from my outside life when I am in class and I am always challenging myself to do better with my work.
What’s most challenging in the classes?
Being bold on the first attempt at something. During class, I am pushed to be braver and make bolder choices and that is what has made me the actor I am today.
What are some of your best memories from previous Players shows?
One is from the Summer Players show, Annie. During the Hooverville scene, all of the sound went out and we had to improvise for a while and deal with Oliver (the dog who played Sandy), as he tried to escape from me and head to his owner across the stage. My favorite Teen Players memory is from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, when we were rehearsing the fight scene and I had laryngitis. I stopped thinking about what I was going to say and I just did it. That moment made for some of the best work I felt I have done during my time at SCR.
What’s important for others to know about SCR?
Hard work and being a good person will pay off in the end. In classes, we play many acting games and improv games and later we learn how those helped us as a person and an actor. In my opinion, if you love performing and learning, and want to become a good actor, SCR is the only place to do this.
What are your plans for the fall?
I will be attending Oklahoma City University for a BFA in acting and a minor in musical theatre and directing.
Has the Conservatory prepared you to take that next step?
I credit SCR as the reason why I was prepared for my college auditions. SCR taught me how important it is to have a good work ethic with anything in life and that acting is merely portraying a real person’s emotions and needs. SCR has taught me that the product is important, but without the process of rehearsing and learning, what is the point to performing in the end? SCR has prepared me to be a well-rounded actor in the professional world and a well-rounded individual in the real world.


Name: Olivia Drury

Hometown: Laguna Niguel
School: Dana Hills High School, Sophomore.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: Four years ago.
Other Players Productions Include: Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast.
Roles in The Secret in the Wings: Suitor​, Oliver​, Boy's Servant​, Photographer, Soldier, Dancing Couple, Daughter.
What do you like most about the play?
Though each story is told in a heightened reality, each tale appeals to everyone’s human nature.
What do you like about rehearsals?
Being with the other actors because they are some of the most brilliant and hilarious people I have ever met.
What do you like best about acting classes at SCR?
There are some wild stories from our dinner breaks (laughs).
What’s most challenging in the classes?
Having the stamina to sustain these demanding characters for extended periods of time.
What are some of your best memories from previous Players shows?
I loved helping to create the magic of Mary Poppins and, in Beauty and the Beast, getting to play a whistle was a life-changing experience!


Name: Amanda Fassett

Hometown: Irvine
School: Orange County School of the Arts, Sophomore.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: Seven years ago.
Other Players Production: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Roles in The Secret in the Wings: Servant​, Child​, Princess​, Who Won't Laugh​, Attendant​, Son, Swan.
What do you like most about the play?
How uncertain the tone is—it allows the audience to interpret, imagine and create different possibilities for characters’ motives and realizations.
What do you like about rehearsals?
Having the ability to collaborate in-depth with everyone, as this is a very heavily ensemble-based production. It allows me to see and interpret things in a new light.
What do you like best about acting classes at SCR?
I love being able to apply the many layers of learning from each session (fall, winter, rehearsals) to create an in-depth understanding for how (and why) our characters came to be.
What’s most challenging in the classes?
Sustaining the same amount, if not more, energy in each scene.
What is the best memory from a previous Players show?
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we were given 30 minutes to explore our fairy characters and do that improv style. It was raw and funny, but also helped us all clarify things including our characters’ motivations, interactions and choices.


Name: Henry Ficcadenti

Hometown: Irvine
School: Sage Hill School, Senior.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: Nine years ago.
Other Players Productions Include: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Nightingale, Bliss, David Copperfield, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Roles in The Secret in the Wings: Mr. Ficcadenti​​, Poor Man​​, Executioner, Dog, Father, Henry.
What do you like most about the play?
That it utilizes different storytelling techniques.
What’s important for others to know about SCR?
You have to enjoy the process a lot to fully involve yourself in the Conservatory.
What are your plans after high school?
I’ll be attending Lafeyette College (Easton, Penn.)
Has the Conservatory prepared you to take that next step?
I live more in the present and I’ve learned to prepare myself and breathe deeper.


Name: Mitchell Huntley

Hometown: Newport Beach
School/Year: Orange County School of the Arts, Sophomore.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: Eight years ago.
Other Players Productions Include: Cinderella, Into the Woods, Seussical, The Nightingale, Annie, Jack and the Giant Beanstalk, Peter Pan, Myth Adventures, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast.
Roles in The Secret in the Wings: Prince #3​/Sir Mitchell​/Dancing Couple/First Singer​/Father/Strange Tree-Like Figure.
What do you like most about the play?
I like how it emulates the model of the Brothers Grimm stories and was developed by actors for actors and, to that degree, it has a sense of play that we all can relate to.
What do you like about rehearsals?
Integrating our research of the stories into how it affects our characters and their motivations. Also, I have to say, the day we spent trying to come up with sounds for the show was a cacophony of fun!
What do you like best about acting classes at SCR?
Character exploration is the pinnacle of acting and comparing the different methods of finding a character is an interesting process. What makes a well-rounded actor is discovering what helps to develop a character and the biggest part of SCR is that process.
What’s most challenging in the classes?
To find the physical freedom to move around and be something I'm not. Theatre is a very open and free place and, if you don't allow yourself to open up, it's going to be difficult. I used to be (and still am a little) a very awkward and stiff person. I found fluidity in movement through SCR, but it was challenging. I still find myself a little awkward and stiff at times and have to break through that barrier of comfort.
What are some of your best memories from previous Players shows?
I have memories from all of my Players shows. To pick a couple, Jack and the Giant Beanstalk was my first lead in an SCR show. I had to learn to be very precise in the control of my body when I swung the axe. In Annie, my voice cracked on my one line as Jimmy Johnson (radio's only masked announcer). I was going through vocal puberty at the time and I was devastated when that happened on stage but, in hindsight, it was absolutely hilarious.


Name: Lauren Lyons

Hometown: Newport Beach
School/Year: Orange County School of the Arts, Junior.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: Five years ago.
Other Players Productions: Annie, Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast.
Roles in The Secret in the Wings: Blind Queen #2, Royal Dancing Couple, Piano Player, Lady-in-Waiting, Laura, Voice of Evil Mother, Parent, Female Voice.
What do you like most about the play?
How it is so whimsical and tells the stories of some “not-so-well-known” fairy tales. It’s also a lot of fun playing a variety of characters.
What do you like about rehearsals?
Being able to play a variety of characters—from a blind queen who ends up eating her child to a sassy 10-year-old “queen bee” little girl who is trying to tell a story about a princess, I am constantly challenged as an actor.
What do you like best about acting classes at SCR?
I have had the best time working with my fellow actors and with Hisa [Takakuwa, director]. Everyone has been so supportive and allowed all of us to be able to take risks and grow as actors.
What’s most challenging in the classes?
Being thrown into characters that are not in your comfort zone. But through this, I’ve grown a lot as an actor and have found new ways to relate to different characters.
What are some of your best memories from previous Players shows?
Annie was such a magical experience since it was my first show with SCR, and I learned a lot about character development and why orphans truly had a “hard-knock life.” In Peter Pan, I was challenged playing some pretty obscure roles, such as Peter’s shadow and maneuvering as an Ostrich in en pointe shoes. I had a blast being completely silly as a Silly Girl in Beauty and the Beast.


Name: Grace Tomblin Marca

Hometown: Costa Mesa
School/Year: Waldorf School of Orange County High School, Junior.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: Five years ago.
Other Players Productions Include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Roles in The Secret in the Wings: Mama, Grayson, Queen #3, Strange Tree-Like Figure, Lady-in-Waiting, Singer, Voice 2.
What do you like most about the play?
How much the characters embrace the absurdity of the stories. It forces us to do the same.
What do you like about rehearsals?
I love the experimenting we do on the scenes and seeing where things go.
What has been the most fun part of your classes so far?
The friends and the kind environment.
What’s most challenging in the classes?
Pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
What is one of your best memories from previous Players show?
My favorite memory is from tech week [the last week if rehearsals before a show starts] for A Midsummer Night’s Dream—that’s when the show really came together for the first time. To see the magic happen was simply incredible.


Name: Liam McHugh

Hometown: Santa Ana
School: Foothill High School, Sophomore.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: Five years ago.
Other Players Productions Include: Myth Adventures, Mary Poppins, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Beauty and the Beast.
Roles in The Secret in the Wings: Prince #1, Father, ​Man, Strange Tree-Like Figure, Son.
What do you like most about the play?
The story lets everyone play multiple and very diverse characters.
What do you like about rehearsals?
All the time that I have to act.
What do you like best about acting classes at SCR?
Creating new characters.
What’s most challenging in the classes?
Trying to find time to work on my characters.


Name: Joshua Myran

Hometown: Rancho Santa Margarita
School/Year: Mission Viejo High School, Sophomore.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: About six years ago.
Other Players Productions Include: Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Myth Adventures.
Roles in The Secret in the Wings: Boy, Son of Queen #3, Son, Dancing Couple, Strange Tree-Like Figure, Son, Swan, Suitor.
What do you like most about the play?
How all of the stories have different ways of being told. It makes the play so interesting and dynamic and engaging that you never know what will happen next.
What do you like about rehearsals?
How much time we have to explore and ground our characters and that we engage with each other in character. I don’t have to worry if I am making the right decision, because rehearsals give us time to figure out that information about our characters.
What do you like best about acting classes at SCR?
Our improv activities are so much fun. Playing off of others in the moment is exciting, yet can be scary at times. It’s fun to watch how others take the improv and continue to tell a story.
What’s most challenging in the classes?
Digging deep into the motivations and intentions of characters in monologues and scenes and even in our own self-created characters.
What are some of your best memories from previous Players shows?
I loved the whole introduction to Beauty and the Beast: the hustle and bustle of the town and the points of connection with every person in that sequence. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I loved the “acting troupe” and how our characters were enthralled with the opportunity to perform and they were over-dramatic and funny. It was hard not to laugh every time we did one of our scenes.


Name: Jamie Ostmann

Hometown: Los Alamitos
School/Year: Orange County School of the Arts, Senior.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: 10 years or so.
Other Players Productions Include: Every Summer Players production (except Mary Poppins), The Velveteen Rabbit, The Nightingale, Bliss.
Role in The Secret in the Wings: Jamie, Child, Lady-in-Waiting.
What do you like most about the play?
How it takes existing fairy tales and presents them in a new way. It’s cool how varied the storytelling techniques are—from singing to drumming to rapping, it really covers all the bases.
What do you like about rehearsals?
The chance to explore a character who exists outside of the fairy tales. My character gets to view the fairy tales just as the audience does. It’s been really fun and exciting.
What do you like best about acting classes at SCR?
The people I meet through SCR. They are my best friends and I love creating new things with them.
What’s most challenging in the classes?
Managing the demanding rehearsal schedule with an equally demanding school schedule. It’s not easy, but I think it’s worth it. And I still kept coming back!
What is your best memory from a previous Players show?
Playing Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I pretty much got to prank people the entire time! I love roles where my character gets to have as much fun as I’m having. Not that dramatic roles aren’t great, but it’s really an awesome experience when your character gets to be the heart and joy of a play.
What’s important for others to know about SCR?
This is where you will get to meet your closest friends, the people who will always have your back no matter what. Plus, they won’t necessarily be the ones you expect, but you will find them eventually. These are the people are will help get you through every stressful day, so keep them close.
What are your plans for the fall?
I plan to study history and literature in college and hope to continue participating in the arts.
Has the Conservatory prepared you to take that next step?
SCR has prepared me to incorporate art into everything I do. To find a way to create art, even if it’s not readily apparent. I am ready to move on into the “real world,” whether that takes me to a stage, a museum, a library, or an office, the lessons I learned at SCR will come with me.


Name: Emme O'Toole

Hometown: Irvine
School/Year: Orange County School of the Arts, Sophomore.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: Eight years ago.
Other Players Productions Include: The Nightingale, Jack and the ​Beanstalk, Myth Adventures, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Annie, Seussical.
Roles in The Secret in the Wings: Queen #1, First Lady-in-Waiting, Cook, Son, Strange Tree-Like Figure, Parent.
What do you like most about the play?
How there are multiple stories. We all tell different narratives and play different characters, but the central message is the same: nothing can replace the love between a parent and a child.
What do you like about rehearsals?
I get to tell this fairy tale-inspired story with such an amazing cast. We all have grown super-close and I couldn't imagine a better ensemble to perform with.
What do you like best about acting classes at SCR?
Discovering the characters together and uncovering more about the worlds of each story.
What’s most challenging in the classes?
The long hours! We rehearse for up to seven hours in a day, multiple days a week, and while I always look forward to rehearsal, it can get tiring.
What are some of your best memories from previous Players shows?
Those always come during tech week [the week of rehersals before a show opens], when we add lights, sound and costumes into a show.


Name: Katherine Parrish

Hometown: ​Las Flores
School: St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, Senior.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: Six years ago.
Other Players Productions Include: David Copperfield, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Roles in The Secret in the WingsMother, Singer, Lady-in-Waiting, Princess, Katherine, Evil Mother.
What do you like most about the play? 
I like that the story is told through the eyes of a child. I’m reminded of the importance of stories and imagination in a child’s growth and how those remain vital throughout our entire lives. 
What do you like about rehearsals?
I love getting to jump around from story to story and play all sorts of different characters at every rehearsal. It’s refreshing and really keeps us all on our toes. 
What do you like best about acting classes at SCR?
Getting to know so many fantastic teachers and fellow students. And, of course, the strange-but-lovable ensemble-building games like Hunter Hunted and Zip Zap Zop. I’ve had some of the best times of my life thus far at SCR!
What’s most challenging in the classes?
Learning to trust myself, my fellow actors and my teachers fully. Not being afraid to take risks. Not being afraid of vulnerability. 
What’s one of your best memories from previous Players shows? 
During David Copperfield, I had to run across the stage chasing a donkey with a broomstick. One night during this cross, I took a very dramatic tumble on the platform and landed face first, center stage. It was legendary (at least in my eyes). I’m pretty sure I had a bruise on my right knee for three months, but it was worth it. 
What are your upcoming plans?
I’ll be attending Manhattan School of Music and will double-major in theatre and music education. But, who knows—that may well change!
Has the Conservatory prepared you to take that next step?
I’ve learned a lot about myself through the extraordinary guidance and cultivating environment provided at SCR. That’s most important to me: beginning the journey of getting to know myself is important before I head off to college! I’ve learned a lot about how to work professionally within a rehearsal environment and how to manage my time effectively between schoolwork, SCR and other extracurriculars (although I certainly have more growth to do in that department). 


Name: Saul Richardson

Hometown: Riverside
School: Riverside STEM Academy, Freshman.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: Eight years.
Other Players Productions Include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Beauty and the Beast.
Roles in The Secret in the Wings: Ambassador, Man, Papa, Dancing Couple, Suitor, King #2, King of Seven Years.
What do you like about rehearsals?
The first time we read through the play.
What do you like best about acting classes at SCR?
Seeing the stories coming together.
What’s most challenging in the classes?
Taking risks.


Name: Sarah Sparks

Hometown: Foothill Ranch
School: Orange County School of the Arts, Freshman.
Started at the Theatre Conservatory: Five years.
Other Players Productions Include: Myth Adventures, The Witches, Beauty and the Beast.
Roles in The Secret in the Wings: Heidi, Son, Child, Dancing Couple.
What do you like most about the play?
I love how the story is written. It is very unique.
What do you like about rehearsals?
I’ve loved exploring the different styles of the show.
What do you like best about acting classes at SCR?
Working with everyone and being able to collaborate.
What’s most challenging in the classes?
Being able to bring the appropriate energy to each story, since they’re all so different.
What are some of your best memories from previous Players shows?
So far, those have come from sitting down and chatting during dinner break.


The cast also includes Hartejas Dhindsa.

Learn more and buy tickets.