Two directors sit at the helm of Aladdin Jr., a presentation of Live Oak Theatre’s Acorn Theatre, a theatre of, by, and for young people. And perhaps it’s fitting that this youth-directed production, playing March 18 through March 28 at the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for the Arts, 21030 Cortez Boulevard, Brooksville, will be co-directed by a youth.
The team of Katie Moore, senior director, and Stephania Torres, student director, is helming Acorn Theatre’s production of ALADDIN Jr. And while this marks Torres’ debut as a stage director, this high school student is already a veteran of stage–and even screen!
“This is technically my first time directing at Live Oak although I have directed a couple of short films,” said Torres, a Hernando homeschool student. “I’ve been doing theatre since I was 3 years old, but joined Live Oak when I was around 10 years old.”
Also an instructor at the Live Oak Conservatory, Torres feels that Aladdin Jr. is the perfect production for her students. Disney’s Aladdin Jr., which brings the famous family movie to life on stage, tells the story of a beggar and a street urchin who falls in love with a princess–wooing and winning her with a little help from a magical Genie.
“The kids were ecstatic (to perform Aladdin Jr.)!” said Torres. “I don’t think they could believe it (I couldn’t believe it)! We were all so excited.”
And, she says, the Acorn Theatre is the perfect venue for this fanciful, imaginative production.
“The youth theatre program is a really creative idea for allowing kids to have roles they wouldn’t necessarily get in a normal Live Oak production,” she said. “Here I also feel it’s more one on one and we, as teachers, are able to help them get more in-depth with their acting, dancing, and singing abilities.”
The Acorn Theatre production of Aladdin Jr., said Torres, is a signature production.
“We’re definitely giving it the Live Oak flare by absorbing the audience into the show by bringing some of the scenes and most of the dance numbers down to the floor,” she said. “Our students are so funny and talented, and just to add more depth we’ve asked them on a few occasions to go home and watch the 1992 classic cartoon.”
And, in this setting, challenges provide learning experiences.
“As far as sets go I would have to say the Magic carpet is going to be the most interesting set to see come to life,” said Torres, “but at Live Oak our costumers definitely try to put some set life into the costuming, engrossing the audience that much more into the production.”
And the production offers lessons for the audience as well.
“(The message of Aladdin Jr. is) That even though there are easy ways to get out of trials the best thing to do is continue to be true and honest, and that when we stray from that it’s possible you could hurt the people you love,” she said.
And Torres herself has no plans to stray from her mission of positive creativity.
“I’m a senior in high school but I intend on dual enrolling next year. In the next few months I will be co-directing a local feature film,” she explained, “and I’m not sure whether or not becoming a director is in my future, but I’m waiting on God to lead me, and if it’s His will that I become a director, then, by all means, I will do my best to perform and carry out His will.”
Torres says that she herself has learned a great deal from her experience at Live Oak.
“I’ve learned that working with kids (people) is not just putting them where you want them to go, it’s having fun with them and building relationships. That everyone is different and you have to mold to the type of actor you are working with so they understand what you’re asking them to do. That directing allows you to work with people you usually don’t work with, like set designers, costume designers, choreographers, managers, etc.” she said. “And directing is fun!”
And Torres has high praise for her senior director.
“Katie Moore has been such an inspiration and a help through this process. I’ve learned so much from her,” she said. “She is so good with the kids and has such a fun bond with all of them. I’m so thankful I get to co-direct with her.”
The senior director of Aladdin Jr. is Katie Moore, a Live Oak veteran who serves as director, lighting specialist, office manager at Live Oak Theatre and Conservatory, and frequent actress in both live and filmed productions, the latter released through the Live Oak offshoot known as Root and Branch Films.
“Katie Moore plays the role of the Nurse in “AL”. Katie’s acting experience began on the stage in second grade. It is a skill she has continued to hone through her 30+ productions since. Some of her major stage roles include Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and Ursula in Live Oak Theatre’s production of The Little Mermaid,” reads a Root and Branch bio. “Having fallen in love with the art of acting, she has expanded her horizons by crossing over into the film industry.”
And into the directing field, as she now serves as the senior director of Aladdin Jr.
“The students were incredibly excited about this production. They’ve been really putting their hearts into it,” said Moore. “Through this program, they’ve been learning the usual musical theatre skills or dancing and singing, but they’ve also had the opportunity to take characters they know and love and dive deeper into the true meaning and emotions behind their words and actions to truly bring them to life.”
Moore herself is excited to add a signature Live Oak/Acorn Theatre touch to this very special production.
“While the production is Disney’s Aladdin Jr., we will be utilizing the open floor that we have in our audience to bring the marketplace to life at the feet of our patrons,” she said.
At the same time, the cast and crew respect their source material.
“Their homework after one rehearsal was to go home and watch the original 1992 film of Disney’s Aladdin,” she said. “There are some differences between the stage adaptation and the cartoon, but the energy represented through the characters in animation is something they could all use to bring the scenes to a more vibrant state.”
Like Torres, Moore cites the play’s magic carpet set among the production’s most challenging elements.
“The main struggle we’ve had set-wise has been the flying carpet. How do you make a couple of teenagers look like they’re riding through the air on a magic carpet?” she said. “You’ll have to come find out later this month!”
Aladdin Jr., says Moore, is a show with a message.
“I hope that audiences take away the message of being true to yourself. It is something that we try to teach our kids to do even when creating characters,” she said. “The best way to live life is to be true to who you are, through and through.”
Seats for this show are $15 for adults and $8 for children ages 13 and under when accompanied by an adult. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening shows are at 7:30 PM; Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2:30 PM.
For more information about Alladin, Jr. or the Live Oak Theatre Company, including sponsorship and audition opportunities, call 352-593-0027, email [email protected] , or go to www.LiveOakTheatre.org. Visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LiveOakTheatre.