By Allison McDowell Enstrom
When you walk off Seattle’s Stone Way into Stone Soup Theatre, you literally go from city sidewalk to stage. We stepped right onto the Yellow Brick Road, which still had the slight essence of wet paint for the show’s first performance. Seattle’s only one-act theater is a little unassuming storefront. But behind the door, there’s magic taking place.
I took my 6-year-old daughter to the press preview for the theater’s production of The Magical Land of Oz on Thursday night. The neighborhood theatre’s Youth Conservatory is designed for young people (between the ages of 8 and 13) who are ready to start cutting their acting teeth on a small stage with a small audience. There are just two rows of chairs and the audience is seated within a few feet of the actors who share the floor (there is no stage). The set is minimal; the bulk of it is a slide projected on a background screen to establish scenes like Dorothy’s house getting sucked up into the tornado, or the Wizard’s intimidating face bordered by hellish flames. That being said, it means the young cast is getting all your attention.
The kids enthusiastically embraced Stone Soup’s interpretation of L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and clearly were enjoying their time under the lights. The music was bright and jazzy and included an adorable rapster who had my daughter bouncing in her seat to the beat and me tapping my toe. The choreography was simple, which made it easier for the actors to be in unison. At this particular showing, the Wicked Witch was played by Lauren Stone, and if her acting is any indication of the kind of instruction these students get, they’re in terrific hands! She was awesome.
Personally, I think the cost of admission ($16) is a little steep for a neighborhood theatre, but it is delightful to see these kids blossom into young actors with fine potential. I admire a Dorothy who can sing her lungs out just feet away from her audience or a Cowardly Lion who expresses her fear in the most adorable way possible.
With summer upon us, Stone Soup Theatre is perfect if you have a budding drama star. Camps run a broad spectrum for anyone’s acting interest, from “Winnie the Pooh” and “Willy Wonka” to “The Hobbit” and “Greek Myths.” Stone Soup’s week-long summer camps take place at their DownStage Space in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood and at three parks: Meridian Park, Jefferson Park and Marymoor Park on the Eastside. Get more information and register online. Camps are for kids 3 through 18.
If you go…
When: Friday evenings at 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday afternoons 2 p.m., through June 17.
Where: Stone Soup Theatre, 4029 Stone Way North, Seattle
Tickets: $16 general admission (there’s not a bad seat to be had!). Call the box office at 206.633.1883 or get tickets at brownpapertickets.com.