Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Green Bay Area Youth Troupe Achieves Milestone of 200 Productions

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The famous story of “Cinderella” is at the center of a notable achievement for Evergreen Productions Young Actors.

The play “Cinderella” will be presented as the 200th production of the distinctive troupe of the De Pere-Green Bay area.

Performances are Sept. 28-30 in the Webb Theatre of Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts of St. Norbert College. Info: evergreentheatre.org. Times are 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28 and 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 29-30.

Directing is Carolyn Silverberg. The characters/actors: Alfy – Charli Micheletti; Brutus/Ensemble – Lilly Knox; Cinderella – Meg Ferron; Damion/Ensemble – Leona Lins; Ella – Lola Renier; Ensemble – Ellah Komp; Ensemble – Allison Linsmeier; Ensemble – Avery Tripp; Ensemble – Alaina Tripp; Ensemble – Annika Pries; Ensemble – Aria Hoffman; Ensemble – Evelyn Rickards; Queen – Ashlee DeGrave; Ensemble – Lorelei Yaw; Jerry – Mya Ferron; King /Sir Reginald – Sam Ruffell; Mouse Ben – Tegean Keomanyvong; Narrator/Fairy Godmother – Libbie Pelishek; Penelope – Katelyn Valliere; Prince – Tegen Lowney; Prince’s Royal Valet – Peyton Yaw; Priscilla – Addie Weiss; Royal Guard – Jonathan Valliere; Stepmother – Greta Gartzke; Town Herald/Ensemble – Aubrey Mitchell; Young Priscilla/Ensemble – Sophie Vogels.

Overall, Young Actors casts range in age from 5 to 18 – elementary to high school.

“We bring students from throughout the area, including Appleton, Wrightstown, Two Rivers, Pulaski and Seymour, along with all of the Green Bay area schools,” says Sherrill Revolinski, Evergreen Productions president. “We include homeschool students also.”

The Young Actors program has a marvelous origin.

Once upon a time, there was a federal program that was built to encourage the arts. President Lyndon Johnson envisioned what he called a “Great Society.”

The federal program ran its course as planned, but, brilliantly, in Green Bay the idea for children’s theater stuck.

Local people picked up the ball in 1969 and created Next Door Theatre.

For many years, hundreds of young people and adults put on scores of plays throughout the Green Bay area by and for children.

Eventually, a merger brought Next Door Theatre into Evergreen Productions with unique concepts. Youth from throughout Northeastern Wisconsin have opportunities to participate in:

+ One. Youth-only casts.

+ Two. Youth plays that mix in adult actors.

+ Three. Adult plays that mix in youth actors.

Evergreen Productions includes youth training programs and has presented a touring production for schools.

Sherrill Revolinski offers an overview:

“Our Young Actors program includes the full support from the talented designers who work with Evergreen’s Mainstage productions. Plays are selected that will allow participation from all ages of young actors. We also offer summer classes that allow students to focus on learning new/improving existing skills ranging from acting to set design to costuming.

“Evergreen’s Young Actors come from all over – all ages, all schools, all cultures, all backgrounds – a feature unique to Evergreen that students don’t experience in the regular school setting.

“Each production utilizes young people for technical areas, mentored by designers in lighting, sound, stage management, props and run crew.

“We offer three Young Actors productions as part of Evergreen’s season along with a production in the summer from our Summer Theater Program. For the past three years, we have offered young actors the chance to select, cast, direct and produce their own production through our Young Actors Drama Club, Kids Next Door.”

Famously in the De Pere-Green Bay area, Evergreen Productions has kept alive the tradition of presenting the beloved “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” The comical and meaningful play is a magnet for performers and audiences year after year. Productions started from yet another source of children’s theater led by Bette Hayes.

To help tell the Evergreen Productions Young Actors story, Revolinski also gathered thoughts of participants in the idea.

From students:

One. “I was always fascinated with play and musical productions. During fifth grade, I landed a part in my first musical play, and I loved the experience of acting a part and putting on a show. Through the years, it was fun to audition for new parts and act in several plays. As I got older, I moved to backstage and tech because I wanted to stay involved. Evergreen is run by a team of people who love the world of acting, and they share that love with the kids. I’m glad I was one of them.”

Two. “Evergreen is a place where I can do what I love to do, act. It has given me many opportunities to do many different roles, from being a principal actor, to a supporting actor. I have been in 16 different shows with Evergreen. It also allowed me to help backstage with props, sound and lights. Through Evergreen, I have met many people and made many friends from many different schools with the same passion I have.”

Three. “Evergreen has exposed me and many others to a wonderful acting experience. My time there is irreplaceable and unforgettable. I met the majority of my friends from Evergreen. Evergreen will give you a true acting experience that you can’t find anywhere else. No matter if you are a child or an adult, you will have an amazing experience with Evergreen and will make ever more amazing friends.”

Four. “I was always drawn towards being onstage, so participating in Young Actors productions really allowed me to dip my feet in the water and gave me opportunities that my school didn’t provide. I kept on coming back and auditioning not only to improve my acting abilities but also to spend time with the group of young actors that had become my closest friends. I came into high school with a solid foundation in theater – and furthermore, public speaking as a whole – and I owe that solely to Evergreen. Not only did youth theater teach me how to perform, but it also amplified the passion that I have for the fine arts now – and that’s something that I am deeply grateful for.”

Adults factor large in the program.

Revolinski says, “Without the volunteers – Evergreen is 100 percent volunteer run – we would not be able to mentor, guide and teach students. Countless adults put hours into each production, from selecting the plays to designing the sets and costumes.

“The adults participate to connect with their young actors in an activity that is fun and allows them to express themselves. We always tell parents that everyone is needed to volunteer for a Young Actors production as it truly takes an army to put it on the stage.

“Why do we do it? Read the quotes above from the young actors. To see young people of all ages connecting, laughing, gaining confidence and doing something they love makes it all worthwhile.

“Some of our adults participate because they were in a production as a child and now want to pass along their knowledge to inspire the next generation. With a history started in 1969, those young actors now are the parents/grandparents for our current participants.”

Revolinski gathered these thoughts from parents/adults:

One. “We got involved after seeing ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ one year. We left the theater, and I remember thinking my kids could do that. Originally, I wanted them to get involved for no other reason than to keep them away from all the bad influences that exist today. I liked the social and creative aspects of Evergreen and enjoy watching all the kids develop and progress through the years. I personally got involved on a whim at auditions for ‘Inherit the Wind.’ My daughter was auditioning and asked me why I wasn’t auditioning. I do like that Evergreen is one of the few social activities in Northeast Wisconsin that doesn’t revolve around alcohol. ‘Inherit the Wind’ was a mixed adult and kid show. It was such a unique experience to not just watch my child on stage but to be on stage with her, and to go to rehearsals and not just watch rehearsals but be part of rehearsal with her. Together, we bonded over the shows, characters, actors and developed other creative outlets that have been a true blessing to me and my family.”

Two. “Evergreen is one of the few things a parent can do together with their children where both parent and child are equals. Instead of taking my children to soccer practice or baseball and watching them from the side lines, I took them to theater and joined them on stage. It has been a wonderful and very unique experience I shared with my kids and Evergreen as they have grown up.”

Three. “Participating in theater with young actors and crew is energizing and exciting. Young performers grow throughout the process of rehearsals and performances, gaining confidence and new skills. It is such a pleasure to witness them finally master that dance step, create that character, learn how to operate the lights, or handle scenery and props. Always, my favorite moment is seeing them greet the audience after the show – these young people glow with pride, knowing they have been part of something magical and meaningful.”

Four. “Evergreen provides a place for kids to be artistic, use their imagination and meet others like themselves while doing it. My kids love sports and the arts. The volunteers and the community who give for the performances are what keep it alive.”

Hundreds of youth and adults have been part of Next Door Theatre/Evergreen Productions Young Actors since 1969.

Scores of directors have led productions that, before St. Norbert College’s Webb Theatre became the primary home site in 2000, were presented at these locations: Green Bay West High School, YMCA, Green Bay Preble High, Franklin Middle School, Premontre High School, Brown County Central Library, St. John’s the Evangelist Church, WBAY Auditorium, Heritage Hill State Historical Park, De Pere Middle School, De Pere High School, Green Bay Community Theater and The Salvation Army Kroc Center Green Bay.

Here are all the plays (which don’t add up to 200 because some were produced more than once):

“Hi-Lili,” “Little Moon,” My Friend the Fox,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Winnie the Pooh,” “Song of the Nightingale,” “The Phantom Toll Booth,” “The Story Bag,” “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Giant,” “The 3 Pigs, Bears and Billy Goats,” “The Tingalary Bird,” “The Red Shoes,” “The Hobbit,” “The Plain Princess,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “Treasure Island,” “Seeing is Believing,” “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “The Mirror Man,” “What Harold Was Afraid Of,” “Lions and Tigers and Us,” “Macbeth,” “Only an Orphan Girl,” “The Moving Company Dances,” “Where the Wild Things Are and Other Scary Tales,” “Pinocchio,” “Reynard the Fox,” “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “The Invasion of the Bobolinks,” “Golliwhoppers,” “Adventures of Johnny Tremain,” “The Canterville Ghost,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH,” “Stone Soup and Book of Spells,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Master Cat,” “Peter Rabbit,” Ramona the Brave,” “Quest for King Arthur,” “The Tinder Box,” “Pippi Longstocking,” “The Goose Girl,” “Twelve Dancing Princesses,” “Schtick,” “The Pink China Bon-Bon,” “Mrs. Prothero and the Firemen, “Gift of the Magi,” “The Calico Tiger,” “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp,” “The Christmas Dress,” “The Three Golden Hairs of the Devil,” “The Tapestry Room,” “Sacramento Fifty Miles,” “Silent Night,” “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” “Taradiddle Tales,” “Through the Looking Glass,” “The Prince and the Pauper,” “Dancing Donkey,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Paddington on Stage,” “Raggedy Ann and Andy,” “Twelve Dancing Princesses,” “Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz,” “The Liberated Dragon,” “The Magical Pied Piper,” “A Stone that Sings,” “Don’t Count Your Chickens Until They Cry Wolf,” “Snow White,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “A Tale of Sleeping Beauty,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Once Upon a Shoe,” “Little Bit of Magic,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Heidi,” “Jungle Book,” “The Princess and the Pea,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Wind in the Willows,” “Through the Story Book,” “The Secret Garden,” “Pecos Bill and Slue-foot Sue Meet the Dirty Dan Gang,” “Cinderella, It’s Okay to be Different,” “The Magic in Me,” “The Cat Princess,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “King Arthur’s Calamity,” “Puss in Boots,” “The Marvelous Machine,” “Robin Hood,” “How to Eat Like a Child and Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-Up,” “Little Red and the Hoods,” “Interrupting Ert,” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “Aesop’s Fables,” “Kerfafels,” “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” “Beanstalk,” “Cinderella, Cinderella,” “Abracadabra, Aladdin,” “Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz,” “Fables,” “Stuart Little,” “Treasure Island,” “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” “Mouse Waiting,” “The Frog Prince of Spamalot,” “Peter Pan and Wendy,” “Magic Flute Reloaded,” “Interrupting Vanessa,” “Bridge to Terabithia,” “Anne of Green Gables,” “Just So Stories,” “Sleeping Beauty and the Beast,” “Space Pirates,” “The Neverending Story,” “Get Smart,” “The Brehman Town Musicians,” “The Brothers Grimm – Out of Order,” “The Hound of the Baskervilles – A Comic Thriller,” “The Snow Queen,” “Camp Twilight,” “A Little Bit of Magic,” “Forgiven, a Fairy Tale,” “The Masque of Beauty and the Beast,” “Golly Gee Whiz,” “The Bluebird Prince,” “The Westing Game,” “TypeCast.”

Evergreen Productions Young Actors and its predecessors have told many a story, and it has created quite the story it itself in putting on 200 productions.

Applause, applause.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My latest book, “I Fell Out of a Tree in Fresno (and other writing adventures),” is available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.

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