THE CAST (l. to r.): Ann Noble, Joseph Abrego, Rosemary Brownlow, Paul Culos, Jasmine St. Clair, Gio Munguia and Nicole Erb.
Spunky, irresistible oddball Junie B. Jones is very popular—the kindergartener is even a favorite with the seven actors who bring to life Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook (Jan. 26-Feb. 11, 2018, Theatre for Young Audiences). Six of the seven actors are making their SCR debut with this show—and the seventh is a young audiences veteran who portrays three characters in this show, including a parrot. The seven actors bring to life 16 different characters to tell Junie B.’s story. Read on as the actors spill the beans on their own time in kindergarten, among other things.
Roles: Ricardo, Principal, Lucille’s Grandpa
At SCR: It’s my debut here!
My other credits include: Evita, Carousel, Man of LaMancha, In the Heights.
What I was like in kindergarten: I was full of energy and loved to socialize. So much so, that it would often interfere with class time! My teachers would help me channel my energy into creativity with drawing, painting, dancing, singing and lots of other outlets. This led to me having obsessions with many performers and I often spent time on the playground pretending I was a variety of famous people!
My favorite childhood book: Milk and Cookies. It was about a little bear who was afraid of the noises made by the furnace in the basement. He has this whole fantasy about how a scary monster is making those sounds. His grandpa eventually shows him that it is just a furnace and they laugh over some milk and cookies. I loved this book because it made me feel better about being a big scaredy-cat! And it reminded me of my relationship with my mom, who was always making me feel better about being scared.
Why I love doing shows for young people: I remember the first one I saw as a child and it changed my life. I remember wanting to be up there on stage with them and realized that this was an option for life. It also was the first time I paid complete attention to something without resorting to social interaction or boredom. Theatre for young audiences shows are important because they not only entertain, but help to teach and guide!
Role: Junie B. Jones
At SCR: It’s my debut, too!
My other credits include: As You Like It, My Name is Rachel Corrie.
What I was like in kindergarten: Like Junie B, I was a major wacky-kook most of the time! I was playing and pretending, and I was so curious that I asked adults all kinds of questions they didn't want to answer. But, unlike Junie B, I loved learning new things at school and I was afraid of getting in trouble, so I mostly behaved myself when I needed to. Like Junie B, I had a brother who was born when I was in kindergarten. But unlike Junie B, I also had an older brother; he was the loud, bossy one, so I spent a lot of time reading quietly and being a nutball all by myself.
My favorite childhood book: I loved the book Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor so much. It is about a boy and an abused dog whom he rescues. It pulled my heart right in as I followed the story about the boy trying to find a way to be brave, speak up to adults, figure out what's right and fight for his helpless best friend.
Why I love doing shows for young people: Kids have such big imaginations and they don't get distracted by thinking about boring adult stuff—like money and schedules—so they can completely jump into the story that's onstage! I feel lucky to bring the special experience of theatre to people who are still deciding how they see the world and what they value. Kids make the best audiences.
Roles: Meanie Jim, Mitten Crook, Grandpa Frank Miller
At SCR: I’m another one making my debut!
My other credits include: Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, “Modern Family,” “The Middle,” Superior Donuts,” Shameless.”
What I was like in kindergarten: I was obsessed with everything Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-related. I would play for hours with action figures and erupt with dance and karate moves across the living room whenever the show came on TV. My parents realized that I had a gift for drawing and put me in art classes where I could focus my active imagination for hours. I also started piano lessons in first grade, but I HATED practicing because I wasn't very patient.
My favorite childhood books: My favoritest kindergarten book was probably a portraits book I owned of the United States presidents. I didn't enjoy reading much, but I loved learning about history and would sketch pictures of the presidents so that I could practice drawing. Eventually, I grew to love Goosebumps, Maniac Magee and The Hobbit!
Why I love doing shows for young people: Kids are the most candid and animated audience members! Seeing theatre as a child inspired me to pursue acting and being part of Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook gives me an opportunity to create that experience for other children.
Roles: Lucille, Grouchy Typing Lady
At SCR: My debut, too!
My other credits include: “Big Time Rush,” TV commercials, sketch comedy.
What I was like in kindergarten: Oh, man—I was SO adventurous. My mom loves sci-fi/fantasy, so I was pretty much raised thinking that I would grow up to be a witch and help save an elf kingdom—this is all pre-Harry Potter, mind you! I was constantly trying to get my friends to imagine we were in a world not entirely our own. I also quickly became uncool with my friends as we got older becuase I pretty stoutly refused to give up make-believe and magic.
My favorite childhood books: The Borrowers. My mom read all of them to me when I was a young kid and I loved them. But for stuff that I personally read, well, I was obsessed with Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy. It's a great historical fiction diary where Catherine, a noble girl in 1200s England, outsmarts a bunch of idiot suitors while dreaming of crazy adventures. I grew up with a very wolf-looking husky dog, so I was pretty much in love with White Fang, Call of the Wild and all things Jack London. For sci-fi/fantasy I loved: John Christopher's terrifying The Tripod Trilogy, Richard Adams' Watership Down and Brian Jacques' Redwall series. Can you tell I spent the majority of my childhood reading?! All of these books have a sense of adventure and bravery and a real "the-world-is-huge-get-out-there-and-explore!" feel to them. I am still pretty animal-obsessed, so I love any chance to read about animals doing human-like things.
Why I love doing shows for young people: I LOVE kids’ humor. No one is interested in irony or snark, everything is just fun, silly jokes and bits. And young audiences always let you know whether a joke is working or not. I once played a villain and the kids always booed when my character entered. It was great! You don't get that kind of instant reaction from adults. With young audiences, you always know how they feel about your character and their choices (if only real life was so clear!).
Roles: Handsome Warren, Real Live Fireman
At SCR: I’m another first-timer!
My other credits include: Shrek: The Musical, Little Shop of Horrors, Les Miserables.
What I was like in kindergarten: I loved exploring, playing and running around all over the place. I somehow always managed to get a face full of dirt and sweat, no matter where I was.
My favorite childhood books: The Lord of the Rings series. I immediately fell in love with those books because of how epic and full of extraordinary characters they were.
Why I love doing shows for young people: Theatre can be so beneficial and inspiring for kids and you never know how you’re going to influence a young mind’s life. I still remember how inspired I felt going to plays when I was young.
Roles: Mrs., Mother, Parrot
At SCR: Ella Enchanted: The Musical, Flora & Ulysses, The Light Princess, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Anastasia Krupnik.
My other credits include: Stanley Ann, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Hedda Gabler.
What I was like in kindergarten: I asked my mother if I could go to afternoon kindergarten instead of morning kindergarten, because I wanted to sleep in (I think my mother knew I was destined to work in the theatre!). I would NOT wear shoes other than my patent-leather Mary Janes and would NOT wear pants, only dresses and skirts. I WAS A LADY! I really loved a game we played called Role Play. It was confusing at first, but then our teacher explained that we could pretend to be someone else and somewhere else and then just make up words to say. I was hooked!
My favorite childhood books: Benjamin and Tulip, which was about two hedgehogs. Poor Benjamin was sent everyday to get milk for his family and he had to walk by the tree where Tulip lived; everyday, Tulip would beat the crap out of him and either steal his money, steal the milk or dash the milk carton to pieces! Finally, Benjamin buys a watermelon and when Tulip tries to beat him up and smashes the watermelon, he retaliates by taking half the smashed watermelon and squishing it onto her head, so she's got a watermelon helmet. Benjamin helps her take off the watermelon and they are now friends. I liked it because the drawings were cute and it was about standing up for yourself (I always had problems with that). The other book was The Little Fur Family. The Fur Family was little creatures that looked like a cross between bears and raccoons. The little fur child, who is the baby, gets lost in the forest and has to find his way home. When he returns, he sees how much his family missed him. My grandmother used to call me her "little fur child" and that made me feel safe and loved and warm and cuddly always!
Why I love doing shows for young people: There is never any doubt as to the "why" behind doing one of these young audiences shows—they are the BEST! These are for children (of course, for parents, too, because they get to have a laugh or get a little tug at their heart-strings too!) and for them to see how magical theatre can be. They can see that a story—told live, right in front of them—cannot compare to a movie or TV or a video game. It’s also great that kids get to see characters that are like them: struggling like them, wishing like them and learning like them. And meeting the actors afterward the show lets kids see how important they are as the audience and that we cannot do what we do without them laughing and crying and watching our show. Another great thing about performing for kids is that we cannot be fake—kids spot dishonesty right away, so we have to tell the story absolutely truthfully. It may be wrapped up in a super sparkly package, but everything you do has to be a true thing or they don't buy it.
Jasmine St. Clair
Roles: Grace, Pink Fluffy Girl
At SCR: I am making my debut!
My other credits include: The Last Tiger in Haiti, “Shameless,” national TV commercials, cartoon voices.
What I was like in kindergarten: I was extremely outgoing! I made friends easily and was the “leader of the pack”. That’s when my love of the arts started and I remember gathering all my girls together so we could form a dancing and singing group (of course, I was the lead!).
My favorite childhood book: Any by Fred Crump. He had lots of them, including versions of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel (which he called Hakim and Grenita ), where the main characters were black. Imagine being a black child and being able to read about a black Rapunzel, who had long, luxurious braids! I was hooked on all of his books. Representation matters!
Why I love doing shows for young people: It’s important for children to be exposed to the arts. Children are already so expressive and that gets taken away from them over time. I know for me, the arts saved me. As a child, I could have been stuck with the wrong crowd, but once my mom put me in dance and I began acting, a path of success opened up for me. Even if a child decides to become a doctor, having knowledge of the arts allows a certain self-expression that I feel is very important for humanity.
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