Jackson County Players Children’s Theater will ‘Zoom’ this summer

Suzette Lowe
Director Doug Torres demonstrates how facial expressions and body language can express feeling on stage.

The old addage, “the show must go on,” has taken on a very personal meaning for Doug Torres and the Jackson County Players’ children’s theater.

When the original planned productions of “Peter Pan” and “Goldilocks on Trial” had to be postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, Torres, who has assisted or directed the past several children’s theater plays, had to come up with a different plan.

“We are going to have to proceed with technology,” the 20-year old director said. “We will be using Zoom and, in some cases, the kids will tape themselves at home and I’ll edit those videos into one production.”

Portions of the original plan are still in place. There will be two age groups focusing on two different types of scripts.

As Torres explains it, children from kindergarten through seventh grade will be part of the Starburst group. Those from seventh grade on up will become members of The Rising Stars.

“Because seventh graders are on the cusp of both groups, they can choose to be in either or both,” he explained.

Torres has chosen skits for the younger group to perform.

“I searched and found “30 Silly Skits” and after I read them, I thought they would be perfect for the younger kids,” he said. “They are only one to two minutes each. And they’re very funny.”

Focus will be on facial and voice expression. Torres says this is something that should work well with the Zoom format.

“I really want these kids to understand that aspect of acting,” he said. “You can really set the tone, become the character with your face. And changing the voice, being expressive and not monotone can make or break a performance. That’s what I want to teach these young actors.”

As for The Rising Stars, Torres has chosen radio plays. This type of performance, using Pioneer Drama’s “Radio Theater Plays for the Classroom,” also lends itself to facial expression and voice inflection. Sound effects will also be part of the training.

Torres says that currently he has 17 Starbursts enrolled and seven Rising Stars. Children may sign up through June 30.

“I hope we have even more kids interested,” he said. “I’ll be getting scripts out mid-June but final casting won’t be completed till the last day of sign-ups.”

The Jackson County Players were originally planning to offer The Rising Stars group an acting camp experience. Various areas of theater production, such as acting, makeup, costuming, lights and sound, were going to be the focus of classes throughout several months.

“We are hoping to still be able to do that,” Torres said. “But we’ll have to wait to see what social distancing and meeting guidelines are in place at the time. It’s hard to plan things that far in the future right now.”

Torres, who is entering his junior year at West Liberty University as a music education major, has also been hired as a brass instrument instructor with the Jackson County School of Music.

As to why he’s taken on both jobs, music instructor and children’s theater director, Torres says he simply “wants to give back what I’ve gotten.”

“I’ve been in various productions with the Jackson County Players and the Ripley High School theater department,” he said. “I’ve worked behind the stage and had acting parts as well. It’s been fun and I’ve grown so much. I just want other kids to have that same opportunity to express themselves artistically both on and off the stage.”

As for Peter Pan and Goldilocks, Torres said these will be next year’s productions.

“By that time I’ll figure out how to make Peter Pan fly in the Alpine,” he said with a smile.

For information or to enroll in the free children’s theater, contact Torres via Facebook Messenger, by email at dougtorres14@gmail.com or call/text 304-532-0940 or Assistant Director Leslie Haynes at 304-542-3375.

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