The fanciful legend of Shrek has captivated audiences since the debut of the popular DreamWorks family film in 2001. Now the families of Hernando are sure to be entertained by “SHREK Jr.,” to be performed from August 13 to August 15 at the Live Oak Theatre, the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for the Arts, located at 21030 Cortez Boulevard, Brooksville.
This seems like the perfect production for Acorn Theatre, Live Oak’s Youth Theatre program for students ages 8-18, and for audiences eager to see this signature show. “Shrek Jr. is just a favorite among ‘kids of all ages.’ I just recently had a neighbor in Cloverleaf (50+ Community) stop me and ask when tickets will go on sale. It’s his favorite show,” said Live Oak and Acorn Theatre spokesperson Vince Vanni.
“This show has so much heart and there are so many lessons! Shrek shows us, in a very humorous way, that everyone has layers and that we are all beautiful. It teaches us about the importance of true friends and that our friends are the family we choose! And that in the end hard work and dedication pay off,” said Live Oak/Acorn Theatre director Andi Garner, who helms this show along with director Randi Olsen.
Furthermore, the story behind this production is in itself an adventure. Considering that every Acorn Theatre show is also a dynamic and experimental classroom exercise. “We are putting together a show in a week. We will be auditioning and casting the show on the first day of camp and then we will dive right into music! It’s all part of the process,” Garner revealed. “That includes auditions, memorizing lines, learning music, character development, blocking, choreography, building sets etc. So that we can have the second week to add lights, sets, costumes and do a few full run-throughs. Much like professionals in the industry who usually only get 9 days to put up a show. We are developing the future stars of tomorrow by giving them the experience of how it’s really done! It’s intense but so much fun!”
And, of course, every learning experience comes complete with its challenges. “As far as challenges, we recently offered a tech camp and the campers worked on constructing the infamous ‘Tower.’ I am attaching photos of the kids working on it and what it looked like after camp. Still more work to be done,” said Vanni.
And the work, says Garner, is all part of the fun. “I know this will be my life for the next few weeks. I’m still in the pre production phase. So far everything is working! That can all change in a blink of an eye. Sometimes you have to go with the flow or as I like to say ‘make it work,’” she said.
However, Vanni emphasizes, the Acorn Theatre teachers and staff are ready for the challenge. “Naturally, Farquaad is always a challenge, but not for us. When we produced The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, there were two lovable characters… the beavers,” he said. “We used Farquaad as inspiration and had the beavers walking on their knees with knee pads. The audience fell in love with them.”
It’s just another lesson learned at the Acorn Theatre, born from a performance class and working together to produce and perform three shows each year as well as participate in Brooksville’s annual Tree Lighting.
The Acorn Theatre production team consists of rotating directors/instructors who are assisted by a team of apprentices in the areas of stage manager, assistant director, costumes, choreography, lighting, sound, music and set design. Parent volunteers are always welcomed in these areas as well. Acorn Theatre apprentices are chosen from regular performers of Live Oak who have “grown up” on their stage. They assume leadership roles in the production and mentor the students of the Youth Theatre.
Students involved in Acorn’s Shrek Jr. production are enjoying the creative process involved in this kid-friendly, highly popular show. “All of the kids are excited for this show. I did some choreography to ‘Freak Flag’ in class and they had a blast. It was the moment I could see that they understood the theme of the show! That we are all beautiful and different and to just ‘be yourself!’ I think the kids are doing a lot of their own research for themselves. I know some of the kids talked about watching the original cartoon for reference. The original cartoon doesn’t dive into the fairytale creatures like the musical does. We did some exercises during our last camp that had the students tell fairy tales, (ie. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, Peter Pan) through movement and dance.”
Vanni believes that the skill and dedication of Acorn teachers and students shine through in the finished production. “Most important is we hope the audience will go away with the feeling that Live Oak Theatre teaches children how to collaborate to produce a successful production,” he said.
Garner also feels that audiences will learn a great deal from their viewing of Shrek Jr. “I believe the most positive message from the show is to be yourself!” she said. “Let your Freak Flag fly!” Be so unapologetically yourself that everyone sees your beauty inside and out!”
Seats for Shrek Jr. are $15 for adults and $8 for children ages 13 and under, when accompanied by an adult. Friday and Saturday evening shows are at 7:30 PM; Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2:30 PM.
To purchase tickets, go to https://liveoaktheatre.square.site/ or email [email protected] (if you purchase tickets under different names and wish to be seated together) or call 352-593-0027.
For more information about the Live Oak Theatre Company, including sponsorship and audition opportunities, go to www.LiveOakTheatre.org, email [email protected] , or call 352-593-0027. Visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LiveOakTheatre