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Young local thespians learn from professionals in Prizery’s Summer Theatre program

Sixty-five talented voices fill the space on the third floor of South Boston’s Prizery, rehearsing for the upcoming Oliver! — a fun family musical telling the story of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. 

It’s the largest cast ever to be on stage at the Chastain Theatre. This is the cast of The Prizery’s fourth annual Summer Stock Theatre. Professional actors and technicians have arrived from several different states and represent an impressive list of universities. 

They will spend the bulk of their summer here in South Boston, making magic on stage. And they will do it while mentoring to the nearly two-thirds of the cast who are local to our community. This is part of the unique formula of The Prizery’s Summer Theatre program, that aspiring young actors from the area are given the opportunity to share the stage with professional actors. 

They will spend hours of rehearsals learning dance steps from a professional choreographer and proper vocal technique from a professional musical director.  

Comparable programs in other theatres can cost budding actors nearly $1,000 each week, butThe Prizery offers this opportunity to local children at no cost other than an audition, enthusiasm, and hard work. But the hard work doesn’t intimidate these kids.

Mary McLaughlin, 11, of South Boston says, “The professionals show us that if we work hard day after day – although, the thing is, this kind of work is fun – and memorize our lyrics and dance moves, then we can put on a show that the audience will love. That’s a wonderful feeling.”

 Henry Stevens, 13, of Alton, feels the same way. “We do all this work and we get to be a part of amazing shows!”

The Prizery’s Artistic Director Chris Jones underscores how critical the support of the community is to this program, “Speak with anyone of the students that have been involved over the last four years and you will be astounded at their passion and love for what they do, partly instilled in them by their summer theatre experience.” And this would not be happening without the support of our generous local backers of Summer Theatre.

Summer Theatre has become the highlight of summer for some of these young actors. Several have shared this stage with the professional cast every summer since the program’s inception in 2010. Gracie Berneche, Anna Bishop, Victoria Montes-Bradley, and Lilly Savage haven’t missed a summer since Annie. Anna Bishop, 12, of Alton, loves working with the professionals.  She hopes to study theatre in college. “Working with them helps me understand what I need to do and learn so that I can study theatre in the future.”

Lydia Snead, 17, of Scottsburg, is spending her third summer on the Prizery’s stage. She has always had a passion for musical theatre and her experiences in Summer Theatre are helping make her dreams a reality. With the help of professional cast members and acting and voice coaches, Lydia is honing her skills and is hopeful that she will study music theatre in college in only a little over a year. “I have learned so much at the Prizery. Emily Byrne has taught me so much in my voice lessons, and participating in Summer Stock is really helping me improve my acting skills.” Snead is considering auditioning next fall for the music theatre programs at James Madison University, Elon University and Shenandoah Conservatory, the Alma Mater of Prizery’s own Chris Jones.

Stephanie Eales and her family moved to South Boston from Ohio in 2011. Eales studied opera at Ohio University. She has been impressed with the quality of performing arts she has seen at the Prizery. “I keep telling all my friends back home, look, I’ve lived in big towns, I’ve lived in small towns, and I’m telling you, I have not seen anything better than what I see at the Prizery. South Boston is like this tiny southern town with this great arts program! And we get to be a part of it!” Eales and her ten-year-old son Caleb are cast in Oliver’s ensemble and workhouse orphans.

Local cast members include Rosie Anderson, Adrian Bannard-Hall, Gracie Berneche, Anna Bishop, Hannah Breen, Nicklas Breen, Elizabeth Brogden, Shane Brogden, Jordan Clifford, Ryan Crawford, Hunter Crumpler, Caleb Eales, Stephanie Eales, Jason Fitts, Caleb Flowers, Georgia Flowers, Katherine Flowers, Stephanie Flowers,Erin Glass, Carmella Grace, Emma Hannaway, Daniel Haskett, Abby Hill, Katie Holland, Raeann Inman, Larry Jennings, Chelsea Lavinder, Mary McLaughlin, Victoria Montes-Bradley, Gavin Oaks, Kara Oaks, Christian Roach, Lilly Savage, Abby Schleifer, Evan Snead, Lydia Snead , Henry Stevens, Evan Stratton, Ade Tate, Melissa Throckmorton, Katherine White, and Jennifer Whitlow.

“Oliver!” opens June 20 with the first of eleven performances and runs through June 30. Visit www.prizery.com or call 434-572-8339 for tickets or more information.