A teenaged girl, dolled up in a flowing costume dress, giggles as she approaches the play director below the stage. She looks at her co-star – a teenaged boy with a mop of curly brunette hair. She poses her question.
“What happens if I kick the crown off his head again?” she asks, demonstrating the choreographed maneuver where the boy drops to the floor while she kicks the air in front of him.
Director Cindy Wright pauses, and then laughs as she looks at the boy. “I would duck for my life, is what I would do,” she answers.
Spirits were high as 38 Natick Drama Workshop students shimmied into their costumes and practiced carefully constructed song-and-dance numbers for the first night of dress rehearsal before their play, “Doo Wop Wed Widing Hood,” premieres this Friday night.
For over 50 years, Natick Parks and Recreation has offered the 10-week workshop for students in fifth through eighth grades that has led to the production.
The program differs in several ways from school-based after-hours plays. Natick students are split between Wilson Middle School and Kennedy Middle School, but the town-wide workshop gives kids a chance to meet and make friends with pupils from the other school.
The rehearsal times for the workshop – every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – also helps garner participants who cannot otherwise make after-school rehearsals, due to conflicting activities.
In addition, the $96 that each aspiring thespian pays is used to hire a professional staff, including Wright – who has been with the program for 14 years overall – a choreographer, a music director, and a stage manager.
Rua McGarry, a sixth-grader from Kennedy, also pointed out that Natick Drama Workshop plays have better costumes, and that more people volunteer than regular school plays.
“I like it here,” she said. “I get to meet people from Wilson, since I’m from Kennedy.”
The workshop holds four show dates twice a year: one play in November and another in March. Last spring, the program hosted 60 students, nearly double the current participant rate, because rehearsal times did not conflict with soccer – a popular extracurricular among the older boys, said parent volunteer Jill Rosen.
Rosen agrees with McGarry – the workshop does garner much parent support. In fact, the parents developed a nonprofit Friends of Natick Drama Workshop group, to help raise funds for theatrical amenities.
“The fees that the kids pay go towards the professional staff and to rent the venue – anything else, like sets and costumes, comes from money the parents raise,” Rosen said. “All the fundraising, ticket sales, set design and costumes are done by parents. They help in every way.”
The parents ask the young performers to raise $50 each to help offset set and costume costs by selling advertisements in the play’s program.
“Sometimes parents will put in ads, or local businesses will, too,” Rosen said.
This fall’s production, hand-picked by Wright, features a 1950s-esque doo-wop musical weaved into a Red Riding Hood-based fairy tale story. Little Red Riding Hood is one of three princesses about to be wooed by three princes. In the end, they each end up with somebody, Rosen said.
Showtimes are Friday at 7 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults, and $5 for students and seniors. The play will be held at Wilson Middle School on Rutledge Road.
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