STAR Kids to shine in ‘Aladdin Jr.’
Theater group gives kids opportunity to express themselves artistically
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By Natalie Gray  May 30, 2014 12:00 am

A justly executed and well-oiled theater production can make audiences, crew and cast feel like they have stepped into a different world – a whole new world, perhaps, if you were to ask those involved over at STAR Kids Productions involved with the latest presentation, “Aladdin Jr.”

Sonoma Theater ARts Kids Production is a Rohnert Park-based organization dedicated to training and assisting children between the ages of 7 and 17 express themselves through the arts, said Ashley Kimball, former Miss Sonoma County and co-director and founder of STAR Kids.

 

Musicals sell biggest

“Our biggest ticket seller is our musical theater program,” Kimball said about the STAR Kids program. She added that the organization has multiple programs for whatever participating kids’ interest may be; whether it’s dancing, acting or singing.

Kimball and a small group of her latest cast showed up at city council meetings in both Rohnert Park and Cotati on Tuesday night to invite councilmembers to their show.

At both meetings, the group of kids sat (attempting to look inconspicuous in their matching blue shirts and scattered about the audience) until the public comment slot gave them the opportunity to stand and sing. They performed “Friend Like Me,” made famous by actor Robin Williams in Disney’s 1992 animated hit “Aladdin.”

According to Kimball, the drama students of STAR have been preparing for “Aladdin Jr.” since February. Auditions for the play were held in late January. Kimball said that, though she and her co-director Amy McGrath work hard to place the children-actors in roles best suited to their talents and ones which they will best grow in, it is also insured that every single child receives time on stage.

The point of STAR Kids is not to weed out the most talented child prodigies or discourage kids from a career in the musical arts; it is about giving children the opportunity to explore theater and the chance to express themselves through a new, creative outlet.

Aside from the occasional help from parents, Kimball and McGrath are the only adults working on set, and even then their work is focused on training the children to conduct backstage tasks and onstage performances on their own. 

McGrath is the choreographer of the production, while Kimball handles stage direction and trains the backstage crew. According to Kimball, all the stage technicians working on the “Aladdin” production (or any STAR production) are all, of course, under the age of 17. She laughed at the fact that her leading sound technician is 16 years old and has been working backstage on productions since he was 13.

 

Predecessor to STAR Kids

Before there was STAR Kids, McGrath and Kimball worked together training children in the art of theater production at McGrath Performing Arts Academy. When the Academy had to unfortunately close a few years ago, the pair founded STAR Kids Productions. Their first performance was “Annie Jr.” According to Kimball, the production company is interested in becoming a local nonprofit organization in the near future.

The program does not have an official space and rehearses at The Ballroom in Rohnert Park. According to Kimball, this was made possible by Ballroom director John Ross, who rented space to STAR at a kindly affordable price.

“Because he loves the kids,” she said.

 

STAR’s second production

“Aladdin Jr.” is the second production by the STAR Kids crew and will be presented, just like the inaugural “Annie Jr.,” at the Lawrence Jones Middle School Auditorium. The production will run this weekend, May 31-June 1 and costs $12 per ticket. Saturday has two performances at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Sunday has a 6 p.m. show time. 

The title role of Aladdin will be played by Alyssa Isetta. Faith Harvey will portray Genie and Taryn Janney will be Jasmine. 

You are advised to purchase your tickets online at Brown Paper Tickets (www.brownpapertickets.com); STAR’s last performance sold out and they are expected the same for this production. 

Sign-up sheets will be available at the performance should you wish to get your child involved in STAR Kids and the theater world. 

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