Shrek the Musical, Jr. will be making it’s Owensboro debut on June 14, and the production’s lessons about acceptance are more than just part of the show.
Co-Director Jenifer Wiggins said she first saw it at auditions. Students who were vying for the same role didn’t view each other as competition but instead supported one another.
“It’s almost shocking the level of kindness and compassion these kids have for each other,” she said. “They are always taking care of one another.”
Jacob Hein, Co-Director, echoed the same sentiment.
“At our very first read through we had the kids start singing,” he said. “Seeing how supportive they were when they’d sing a solo or in a small group, I knew it was only going to get better.”
The cast of 55 students, ranging from third graders to seniors, has been rehearsing since April. Music teachers Wiggins (Owensboro High School) and Hein (Catholic High School) are the directing duo, with Wiggins focusing on music and choreography, and Hein focusing on the technical aspects and staging.
Wiggins said the students have been amazing to work with, taking any setbacks in stride and constantly asking what they can do to help.
“Every day when I leave, at least a couple of them come up to me and say ‘thank you’ just for my time,” she said. “I don’t get that a lot in the adult world.”
The directorial duo let the students take charge of building props and contributing to the production.
“I think it’s easy as adults to just say, ‘no, we’ll take care of that,’” Wiggins said. “But Jacob and I want to give the kids a chance to be creative and contribute.”
Hein said this sense of ownership helps to build confidence.
“They bring in what they’ve built and the other cast members see it and they’re like, ‘That’s awesome!’” Hein said. “Even the kids who don’t have a big part have creative input in the show and feel involved. Theatre is a big family and the show itself is about celebrating what makes us unique. The kids are coming from all different backgrounds so at rehearsal so we try to create a sense of belonging.”
Wiggins and Hein both feel that students gain life skills from participating in the arts. It’s proven to be a good stimulus for overall educational growth and being in a dramatic performance can build public speaking skills.
“Everyone is stuck behind their phones these days,” said Hein. “It builds skills they may not get elsewhere.”
TWO veteran and former youth show director Mary Katherine Maddox has nothing but praise for this new directorial duo.
“They’re incredibly knowledgeable, they both foster a supportive, encouraging atmosphere that helps these growing actors feel comfortable to try new things and push themselves to develop their craft,” she said. “A lot of the kids have been in the TWO Youth program since they were little bitty… And let me tell you, the amount of talent on that stage will absolutely blow you away.”
Wiggins said she was determined to do this particular show because of its themes.
“It’s all about accepting people for who they are and not asking them to change,” she said. “I hope people will come see it, and I think you’d be surprised by the level of talent involved.”
Hein said the all-ages show has plenty of humor to keep the adults entertained as well.
“And it touches on themes of friendship and being true to yourself, and proud of who you are,” Hein said. “Those are themes I think all ages can relate to.”
For tickets, visit the Theater Workshop of Owensboro online at http://www.theatreworkshop.org/