A circle of teens and pre-teens are on stage at , chanting tongue twisters and clicking their tongues.
“Eleven lazy lions licking lollipops,” they all intone in unison. “Unique New York. Unique New York.”
Jan Dunlap is leading the proceedings. “Everybody take a deep breath, and give me a ‘huh,’” she says. Next, it’s two “huhs,” then three.
Anyone who’s taken a drama class knows what’s going on here, with these silly exercises both warming up the vocal chords and loosening the restrictions of self-consciousness. For some on this stage, they’re just starting their journey into the world of performing arts; others are already well on their way to becoming old pros.
There’s room for both at Evergreen Family Theatre (EFT), which produces professional and youth shows, along with a host of workshops, camps and classes for middle and high schoolers. Evergreen’s spring youth show, “Anne of Green Gables,” runs today through Saturday at Redwood Family Church.
Doing much of the work are Dunlap, who’s the managing director for EFT and the director of “Anne,” and artistic director Marsha Stueckle. The two are old friends and are all over Redwood’s sanctuary at a Monday night rehearsal, tweaking the set, adjusting the lighting and directing the kids.
“We’re kind of a mom-and-pop shop,” Dunlap said.
EFT staged its first show in 2008, and looks to produce two mainstage shows with paid actors and two youth shows each season. Helping kids cultivate their passion for theater and watching tentative kids grow in confidence makes the youth workshops and shows enjoyable, Dunlap said.
“They’re kind of at a pivotal point where they’re deciding, ‘Is this something I want to do?’” she said.
Jacob Lucas, an 11-year-old sixth grader who plays a trio of roles, including the narrator, knows what he wants to do, and that’s act in movies and on television, he said.
He acted in his first play in kindergarten, and he loves the experience of being somebody else on stage, Jacob said. Acting also taps into some of his natural strengths.
“I love public speaking and expressing myself — two things you get to do in acting,” he said. “So, win-win situation.”
Catherine Rourke, 15 and in ninth grade, has also been acting since a young age, and “Anne of Green Gables” marks her fourth show with EFT. This time, she plays Marilla Cuthbert, the reluctant woman who takes in the orphan Anne despite her misgivings.
“She’s a very strict, stern person, and I’m a pretty easygoing, joking person, so it’s a little bit of a challenge,” she said.
Catherine isn’t sure if acting will be her eventual career path; she’s just taking the shows as they come, she said.
EFT provides a place for kids to explore their interest in acting, experienced or not. Auditions are held for youth shows to determine casting, but everyone receives a part, Dunlap said.
“Anne of Green Gables” will stage at 7 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday at Redwood Family Church. The show runs an hour without an intermission and features pay-what-you-can admission.