(Photo by Josh Mills, Staff)
Sikeston Little Theatre Board of Directors President Mike Marsh said the board had toyed with doing an all-youth production for the past couple of years.
"The youth productions had really become just another full-scale play. They were that good, and we thought, 'Wouldn't it be interesting to give the older kids a chance to just really take the ball and run with it and really learn everything involved with putting on a play?'" Marsh recalled. "A good bunch of kids stepped up and said they'd love to do it."
Tonight the all-youth production of Oscar Wilde's classic comedy, "The Importance of Being Earnest," begins its four-day run at the Albritton-Mayer Cultural Center in Sikeston.
Leading the production are Sikeston teenagers Sydney Dzurney and Sloane Harris, who are serving as director and assistant director, respectively.
"I was just excited because they're toying with this new concept about letting the youth direct, and I was glad to be their first guinea pig," Dzurney said.
Dzurney, an 18-year-old freshman at Southeast Missouri State University, said when she and Harris learned the Board of Directors were considering having youth directors, they jumped at the opportunity.
"We put together our presentation and presented it front of the board, and they accepted it," Dzurney said.
Casting for the play began in late August and rehearsals began soon after.
"I tried to get new faces in there. Out of a nine-person cast, at least three people are new to the Little Theatre. We could have picked from all sorts of stuff, and I'm excited that we do have younger people so we can start getting more as the older people move off," Dzurney said.
Starring in the play are high school and junior high students Jon Ginder, Tucker Price, Claudia Davis, Catherine Jackson, Jasmine Adams, Sam Polivick, Ben Jackson and Dru Armitage.
"Rehearsals have been going really well. And not only do we have a first-time director but she's just out of high school and balancing the play with college," said 17-year-old Tucker Price, who plays Algernon, one of the lead male roles in the play.
Dzurney said, at first, it was a little awkward directing her peers.
But Price welcomed Dzurney's and Harris' directorial debuts.
"It's just the community play. It's not a whole lot different, maybe a little more relaxed. She's only one year older than me. It was kind of nice because I've known her for years and she's really laid back. This is our (Price's and Jon Ginder's) last youth play and we' really trying to make it something to remember."
A Little Theatre member since 1999 when she was 9 years old, Dzurney said she's worked on stage and behind the scenes over the years.
"I didn't like being center stage and so I always asked for chorus roles, and I have a lot of stage fright," Dzurney said.
However, the last youth production Dzurney acted in was as Tinker Bell in "Peter Pan."
"And that was not a small role," Dzurney said.
Now Dzurney is using her experiences to direct.
"I'm really happy with everything, and the way it's turned out," Dzurney said.
She said it's more challenging being the director.
"I think one of the things you have to overcome is to be able to rely on everybody. If you're an actor or actress, you are working hard at your role. I never realized how difficult it is for the director because they can only do so much," Dzurney said.
Dzurney said she wanted to direct "The Importance of Being Earnest," because she remembered reading it out loud in a high school class.
"I really loved the play, and I thought it was something easy," Dzurney said.
Price said working on the play has been a lot of fun.
"And the play itself is a really good one," Price added.
Price said he hopes more local youth will find the theater appealing.
"If you want to have fun, you can have fun there," Price said. "If you have a good attitude about it, you can make really good friends and memories."
In order to actually produce the play, an adult had to be with the youth at all times, said Dzurney who also said she's received lots of good advice from adults in the theater.
"Someone told me if you're having problems with something, always ask for help. And always try to relax. That's not easy to do, but I'm going to try," Dzurney said.
Tonight Dzurney, her assistant, cast and crew will have the opportunity to showcase their young talent. She encouraged others to join them.
"This is making history for our town," Dzurney said. "You might as well come and see it."
What: "The Importance of Being Earnest," a youth production by Sikeston Little Theatre
Where: Albritton-Mayer Cultural Center, 506 S. Kingshighway
When: 7 p.m. today, Friday & Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Admission: Advance tickets are available for $7 each at Collins Music Company in downtown Sikeston. Tickets will also be available at the door.