Self-confidence. Flexibility. Teamwork. Creativity. Patience. Perseverance. Determination. Leadership.
All are traits and abilities needed by women and men throughout life — at home, on the job and in virtually any setting. They are exactly the traits being taught to teenagers who are part of the Supporting Cast, an extension of the Sherman Community Players Theatricks division.
The Supporting Cast was especially created for students in 6th through 12th grades who are interested in theater. It came about in 1992 when longtime Theatricks Director Webster Crocker and members of the Theatricks Advisory Council recognized a need not being met elsewhere.
“We saw that the local schools didn’t have much for teens to get involved in concerning theater or the right training in all of the techniques in creating theater for the stage, so the Supporting Cast was born. It was Lynn Wells, a Theatricks Advisory Council member who came up with the title,” Crocker said.
Once a month — the second Thursday — members of the Supporting Cast meet for an hour and a half. Various aspects of the theater such as lighting, directing, acting, makeup, scene painting, among others are taught in a workshop or hands-on session. Through the years, theater professionals have visited the group to discuss the integral parts of live theater. Members have also traveled to other theaters ranging from high school, college and community productions to professional productions in order to witness different forms of theater.
Among the road trips have been visits to Southern Methodist University to see the final U.S. tour of Marcel Marceau, to Tulsa, Oklahoma to see the professional touring troupe for Thoroughly Modern Millie and The Lion King, to the Dallas Children’s Theatre for Bridge to Terabithia and The Magician’s Nephew and to the Plano Repertory Theatre for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Members have even toured the Las Colinas Movie Studios. The trips are partially paid for through fundraisers held by Supporting Cast members at every Theatricks performance. Some of the former Supporting Cast members such as Austin Tooley, Josh Harris and Ross Best come back to speak to current members about the professional theater world.
“Once the students have learned a theater technique, we then offer them the opportunity to employ that technique in one of our shows or other theater shows. They also have the opportunity to learn up to 10 different theater techniques that, once employed by them, they can earn points to the achievement of the “Master Thespian” award. Once they achieve “Master Thespian,” their name is placed on a plaque hung in the lobby of the Honey McGee Playhouse, as well as a medal for them to keep,” Crocker said.
Several other programs have come about as a result of the success of the Supporting Cast. The newest endeavor has been the Theatricks summer youth playwriting conference called STAGES, which will be held this year on June 8 to 10. The three-day course teaches the young attendees about playwriting via a professional playwright and they then get to use those skills to write and perform a 10-minute, one-act play on the last evening.
For much of the year, Supporting Cast members stay behind the scenes, though members often are seen helping on or offstage in Theatricks and Sherman Community Players productions. However, once a year, the teen troupe does a production of its own, the members handling every single aspect of the performance from casting to acting. This year’s production — Sherlock Holmes and the Portal of Time — will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Supporting Cast members say it’s a challenge, but worth it.
Caera Flood, a Tom Bean High School student, and Caleb Crocker who is home-schooled are serving as co-directors. The 16-year-old leaders say the program is challenging yet fun.
“Directing is quite different than acting because there’s quite a bit more weight riding on your shoulders, which is why I’m glad there’s another director,” Caleb said. “I have been a part of Theatricks since I was 11 months old, and I started with the Supporting Cast in 2012 when I was 12. I have always loved live theater because it gives me a chance to step into someone else’s shoes and see things from a completely new point of view. I believe that I have learned a lot from theater. It’s taught me to step outside my comfort zone and try new things. Since early on, I’ve been interested in pursuing a career in theater, but I plan to at least continue theater as a hobby if nothing else.”
Caera didn’t become involved in theater until the summer of 2015 when she cast in Bridge to Terabithia. She’s been with the program every since.
“It’s my first time to direct. The hardest challenge is probably portraying the image I have in my mind of how it should be to the stage using actors, props and sound/lighting as my assets. In a way, directing can be more difficult than acting, but each has its pros and cons,” Caera said.
Asked what she would tell other teenagers about live theater, Caera answered, “It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s never boring.”
Like her co-director, Caera plans to pursue a career in either stage or screen directing and acting.
Putting together the sound for the play is 18-year-old home-schooler Andrew Hill, a four-year veteran of the Supporting Cast. He’s also playing the role of Moriarty in the play. Being a part of the program has taught a variety of lessons he will use throughout life.
“It’s taught me how to better relate to people,” Hill said. “When you spend weeks and weeks in a production, working together with all the same people, you learn to get along with them fairly quickly. Acting also forces you to learn to understand a character’s thoughts and emotions, which can help you do the same for real people.”
Hill said there’s really something for everyone in the Theatricks and Supporting Cast programs.
“The amount of work that goes into a production is immense and spans a wide variety if interests and disciplines. Of course, Theatricks has opportunities for people who enjoy acting or singing, but it goes deeper than that. People who are mechanically-minded would enjoy set design. A few productions I’ve seen also had some fairly ambitious props. The Hobbit had a really cool, giant dragon puppet. If you’re an artist, you’ll have the opportunity to pain set pieces, do makeup or even design costumes. Theatricks has a strong community of artists. Other people like me may enjoy running sound or lights. There’s a lot do in theater because there’s a lot to get done.”
Splitting his time between his role in the play and sound design has been a challenge.
“It does slightly divide my attention, but when I don’t have to be on stage in a rehearsal, I can work on figuring out where I want sound effects. At home, it’s simply a matter of finding or making them (sound effects) and putting them in the right order on a CD. There is a surprising amount of sound effects and music devoted to the public domain, which makes my job much simpler.”
Like her brother Caleb, 12-year-old Emma Crocker has been a part of Theatricks her entire life and began working with the Supporting Cast two years ago. For this production, she is working as the makeup chairwoman, which is also a learning curve.
“Live theater is better because there are so many good, good plays and you can meet the actors. The theater is so much fun and the people are so friendly. You can learn a lot from theater, like lights, costumes, makeup and a lot more. The most difficult thing about makeup is trying to get the right amount of makeup on the actor,” Emma said.