Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Who Are Those Kids, Anyway?

Back row: London Walston, Bella Browne, Jacqueline Vellandi, Aoife McEvoy, Emily McDaneil, Zoe Hebbard, Maximos Harris and William Lynam.  Front row: Alexis Cueva, Joshua Myran, Ben Susskind, Karoline Ribak, Sophia Utria, Katherine Parrish, Mitchell Huntley and Olivia Drury
South Coast Repertory’s annual production of A Christmas Carol has a cast of 25 actors who play 49 roles. Eight of those actors are kids, who play eleven of the roles. And those eight young actors are, in fact, sixteen!

Confused? In 1980, when SCR produced A Christmas Carol for the first time, no one, including the director—then, as now, John-David Keller—knew that the play would run annually for the next 35 years! But they did know that the kids’ roles should be double-cast, allowing the young actors every other day off to spend with their families during the holiday season.

So the kids were divided into two groups—and named after the Christmasy colors of “red” and “green.” Each team has its own performance days, but during rehearsals both teams are often called, so that one can watch the other onstage. According to Keller, “This is a wonderful way for the young actors to see their characters, played by other actors, and learn from the experience. It’s actually great training.”

But who are these kids and how do they get the enviable roles that range from Tiny Tim and his brothers and sisters (the Cratchits) to Scrooge and Marley as boys, to poor kids on the street, to beautifully costumed singers and dancers in the party scenes? They’re students in SCR’s Theatre Conservatory, 16 very lucky kids, who won their roles through audition after at least a year in the program.

Because so many kids want to be a part of A Christmas Carol (more than 70 audition each season), most of the cast is new each year. This season’s young actors, from 13 cities throughout Southern California, are Alexis Cueva/Katherine Parrish (Martha Cratchit), Joshua Myran/Mitchell Huntley (Peter Cratchit), Emily McDaniel/Zoe Hebbard (Belinda Cratchit), Jacqueline Vellandi/Aoife McEvoy (Tiny Tim), Karoline Ribak/Sophia Utria (Fan/Teen Girl), Olivia Drury/Bella Browne (Girl About Town), Benjamin Susskind/London Walston (Young Ebenezer/Oliver Shelley), William Lynam/Maximos Harris (Turkey Boy).

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