Student-organized performance brings theater to local children
By Catherine Winkler
Thursday, November 11, 2021
When Kala Key, a senior majoring in elementary education with a minor in theatre and drama, decided to try directing a play, she brought together students from the IU School of Education and around IU and organized a production set to debut this weekend.
Key has been performing her whole life, but always wanted to try directing and approached Assistant Professor Gustave Weltsek with an idea of creating a children's show that could be performed at local libraries.
The play “Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook" follows Junie B. as she loses her beloved black furry mittens and goes on a journey to discover who has taken them. Throughout the play, the characters deal with themes of jealousy, honesty, and fitting in, all in a hilarious manner. The script, written by Allison Gregory, was adapted from the best-selling book series by Barbara Park.
Theatre can be used for teaching skills that students will use for the rest of their lives in an engaging and memorable way. I wanted to bring this performance to local libraries as a way to make live theatre free and accessible for kids, as well as to spark their interest in performing.
In an entirely student-led production, Key has done a huge amount of work: from organizing auditions and rehearsals to designing the production and finding libraries to perform the play, and creating all the publicity. Key said the group also raised funding by reaching out to friends and family, with help from the School of Education: “We have a list of donors who will be featured on our program for the show, and we truly could not have put this together without them! Dr. Weltsek and I have been working together to get needed props and costumes ordered. Everything else - directing, stage managing, set design, and sound design - has been all on me. I have my hands full, but the show is really shaping up. I think the kids will love it!”
Besides a love for theatre, Key hopes children who come to see this performance are inspired to learn more about Junie B. by reading Barbara Park's book series.
“I wanted to choose a play that was based off of a children's book so that there was a literary connection that could be made after the curtains close. I am hoping that children will be really excited to pick up a book and read! I have asked the libraries to set up a display of Junie B. books outside of our performance spaces so that children can easily check them out after the show,” Key said.
As a future educator, Key believes that the arts are a vital part of education.
“Theatre can be used for teaching skills that students will use for the rest of their lives in an engaging and memorable way. Because of the pandemic, many younger children have yet to experience live theatre. I wanted to bring this performance to local libraries as a way to make live theatre free and accessible for kids, as well as to spark their interest in performing,” she added.
The show will debut with a free performance on Friday, November 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Willkie Auditorium. Additional performances will be at the Ellettsville Branch Library on Saturday, November 13, at 3 p.m. and at the Monroe County Public Library on Sunday, November 14, at 3 p.m. Free tickets for the library performances can be reserved on their websites.
The cast includes:
Junie B. Jones - Amy Weilhammer
Grace/Grouchy Typing Lady - Abby White
Lucille/Principal - Ava Osowick
Handsome Warren/Policeman - Nate Cole
Jim/Mitten Crook/Live Fireman - Andrew Galang
Ricardo/Frank Miller/Parrot - Hannah Keeler
Mrs/Mother/Lucille’s Grandma - Emily Thomas
Both Weilhammer and Galang are also elementary education majors.