The English word “theatre” comes from two Greek words: theasthai, meaning “to behold”, and theatron, referring to a place where people gather to watch a performance.
On this World Theatre day it seems only right to share a story about a Lincoln City theatre troupe that is a sight to behold. It’s a theatre troupe (to paraphrase President Lincoln) for the kids, by the kids and about the kids.
It is the Lincoln City Playhouse (LCP).
But it is a “playhouse” in name only.
The definition of “troupe” is, “a group of actors or other entertainers who tour different venues.” and because they have no home to call their own, the LCP players must appear wherever they can.
Founded in 2019 by Ray and Karen Bonelli-Sanquist as a club that met once a week because as Karen puts it, “Our daughter Tessa and I love the theatre, and there was no full time theatre for kids. And I adore working with kids.
There are kids out there that have have passion, but they don’t know for what. As soon as they get into a theatre they usually break out of their shells. Kids gain confidence from their theatre experience.”
LCP’s first production was Seussical the Musical.
“We started that with 12 kids,” adds Karen. With their current production of “Into the Woods” in rehearsal they boast a cast of 21 speaking roles with 47 kids having auditioned.
The boys and girls are seen over a two day period and are asked to sing a one minute song and say a poem or monologue. If they don’t have anything prepared they can use a book to read from. According to Bonelli-Sanquist, “Everyone gets a part whether speaking or not.”
Aside from the performance, the children have a responsibility to help with every aspect of production-from set creation to concessions.
“Kids need something, and maybe sports aren’t their thing. We turn into a family. We buddy up the younger with the older kids so they get to know and watch out for each other.” said Bonelli-Sanquist.
“Theatre kids are different, in a good way” she continued. “They have such a drive to perform even when they’re not on the stage. Even the quiet, shy ones, something lights up in their eyes.”
Parents of the young thespians tell Bonelli-Sanquist how much it means to them to see their kids interested in something.
Asked if, with so many youngsters running around, that there must be some disciplinary trouble Karen replies, “Of course. But I nip it in the bud very quickly. On the first problem, I speak with the child. If there is a recurrence, I bring in the parent(s) to talk it over. If there is a third instance we have to tell the child they can’t be in the play at this time.
We try to convey to the child that they have the choice to continue being negative or they can change and be in the play.” She adds that they seldom have to invoke the third option.
“I come from a very abusive family” she continued, “I learned that somebody, in their head, has to make a decision that negative things aren’t going to continue. I have a degree in psychology and my family background allows me to understand that there are issues that occur in the world and families that affect kids. I’m thankful that the parents trust me with their children.
Just to be a little, tiny, memory in a child’s life-perhaps they can look back at this time and carry it forward as a positive.”
When asked if any of her now older performers have ambitions to continue in performing arts Bonelli-Sanquist tells the story of young J.R.
“J.R. was originally our curtain boy. He didn’t want to act. When we were getting ready to stage Grease I knew that J.R. should be our “Danny” (think John Travolta’s role). He didn’t want to but I talked him into just auditioning. He said he would but that he didn’t want a lead role.
He auditioned and as he left he said ‘I’ll be anyone but Danny.’ I had heard him sing at his church and knew he was perfect for the part. He was and he did ultimately star as Danny. One day we were speaking to the local Kiwanis club and J.R. sang a song from Grease. When he finished a man in the audience raised his hand and asked if J.R. would audition for Theatre West.
“My ultimate goal is for us to have our own building,” said Bonelli-Sanquist. “a place where we could stage two weekend run plays, I’d like to start a junior theatre for little kids. Our teens have said they want to start an improv group and the adults overhear us talking about it and they want to also do improv.”
Lincoln City Playhouse is a non profit organization that relies on donations for its support. In addition to a fifty dollar production fee collected from each performer, an Amazon wishlist is established with each plays particular needs like costumes and props. “Each production cost about five thousand dollars with the smaller summer plays costing about a thousand. What we can’t pay for with donations and concession sales I make up out of my personal funds.” said Bonelli-Sanquist.
“This is all about the kids,” she concluded. “If someone were to read this story and say, ‘I could help!’ That would be great.”
For more information go to: www.lincolncityplayhouse.com or contact Karen at [email protected]