By Margaret Stadtwald
For the past five weeks, the kids and teens of the Pearl City Players Theatrical Society Youth Program worked hard to prepare for their production of The Enchanted Bookshop. Their efforts came to fruition last weekend, in their two evening and one matinee show run Friday and Saturday.
Cali Van Zandt, president of the Pearl City Players’ board and head of the Youth Program, outlines its goals as, “giving the youth of Muscatine and surrounding towns an outlet to perform on stage and learn the acting craft.” She noted that not every school in the area has the resources to put on theatre productions, and that the Pearl City Players want to fill this gap by offering their Youth Program to children who may otherwise not get the experience of participating in a production.
Once auditions finished at the beginning of June and director Matt Moody selected his cast, the actors, who range from five-year olds fresh out of kindergarten to eighteen-year olds who recently graduated high school, the rehearsal process began. Youth in the show committed to coming to rehearsal three nights a week for two hours per rehearsal to learn their lines, block out their movements, and get to know the characters they performed. Van Zant said many people think a five-week rehearsal schedule sounds too short, but in reality, it provides the perfect amount of time to prepare. In fact, watching the kids grow into their roles stands out as her favorite part of working on a children’s show. “Seeing these children, who may or may not have been in a show before, have their eyes light up when they learn a big chunk of lines or a scene they worked on come together,” always makes working with young actors worth it to her.
In addition to enjoying watching a show come together, Van Zandt felt particularly pleased to present this show to the people of Muscatine. The play tells the story of a woman named Margie, who runs a struggling book shop. When a book containing a mysterious stolen item lands in her shop, the characters of several classic novels, including Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, and The Wizard of Oz come out of their books and unite to save her. In a light hearted and fun way, the show helps remind kids and adults of the power and joy of reading. This message led Van Zant to choose the show. “I try to choose shows with a message. I want people to say more than just, ‘my kid acted in a show.’” Van Zant also considered the show timely, as getting kids interested in books they never heard of ties in well with getting them to visit the library in its new location.
From its relevant messages to its focus on giving young people a positive introduction to theatre, Pearl City Players Youth Program provides excellent artistic experiences in the Muscatine community.