Teens Take the Stage

What have your kids been up to this summer? Twenty-one teens who have caught the theatrical bug have spent their summer vacation building a play from scratch as part of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre‘s Young Artists’ Chair program. They’ll present the fruits of their labor, a fully realized production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, on Saturday, August 15 at 7:30 p.m.

The middle- and high-school students of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s Young Artists’ Chair. Photo by Janie Willison

   The Maltz Jupiter Theatre introduced Youth Artists’ Chair, a free mentorship program that allows students to produce every aspect of a play under the guidance of Maltz Jupiter professionals, in 2011. Past productions have included The Crucible, Hamlet, The Laramie Project, and The Good Times are Killing Me.

   “What I love about the Youth Artists Chair is that we’re able to choose titles that are really compelling and the students just feel so empowered,” says Julie Rowe, the director of education at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre Paul and Sandra Goldner Conservatory of Performing Arts. “It’s really an opportunity for us to delve into a classic play that has some real meat to it.”

   The Glass Menagerie, a cornerstone of powerhouse playwright Tennessee Williams’ repertoire, is a family drama that follows Amanda Wingfield and her children, Laura and Tom. A memory play tinged with heartache and a dreamlike quality, The Glass Menagerie deals with such themes as family obligations and unpursued opportunities. It’s heavy material even for professionals, but student director, Kara Grozan, feels her cast is up to the challenge.

   “It’s been such an honor to produce this incredible American classic,” Grozan says in a statement. “The Glass Menagerie is an unforgettable story with beautiful symbolism, and as young artists, we’re all excited to showcase our hard work.”

   This hard work began earlier in the year with the application process, which Rowe describes as rather rigorous. All interested students had to submit letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a resume before the April deadline and also attend an interview. Selected students were then paired up with a Maltz Jupiter Theatre professional in their chosen field, which included directing, acting, costume design, scenic design—pretty much every job vital to bringing a play to life. The group held their first creative meeting in June and has been laboring ever since. 

   “It’s a big commitment for the kids, but boy do they learn a lot,” Rowe says.

   The Glass Menagerie will be presented on the Maltz Jupiter Theatre main stage and will boast all the professional theatrical elements audiences have come to expect from the Maltz, including projections, lighting, and illusions. Matriarch Amanda may be played by a teen, but that doesn’t mean this production won’t be star quality.

   Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students. To learn more, visit jupitertheatre.org.

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