It’s not Broadway, it’s not even off-Broadway, but for the 40 young actors who took their bows at the end of the JStage performance of Fiddler on the Roof, it was their moment to feel like a star. The packed house in the Merage Jewish Community Center’s Myers Theatre couldn’t have agreed more.
Teri Bassman’s daughter Anna (age 9) is participating in her third JStage performance. Bassman said, “I am amazed by the confidence and stage presence Anna has developed through JStage. When Anna first started two years ago, she was very nervous and was cast in the ensemble of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Now she’s ready to strut her stuff and got to say a line in Fiddler. She even sang a song in front of her whole class at public school and enjoyed doing it! JStage is sort of like a team; the kids really bond and support each other. What’s so thrilling for us is that it’s become a family affair with the grandparents joining us for the performances.”
The Merage JCC’s JStage is a teaching theatre program devoted to producing quality shows by children and teen students between the ages of 7 and 17. Past JStage performances include Bye, Bye, Birdie; Joseph
and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Guys & Dolls and Grease Jr.
According to Yael Brudner, the Merage JCC’s incoming cultural arts director, “Our program is committed to introducing children and teens to all aspects of the theatre by offering year-round educational opportunities through performances and classes. JStage participants learn the ins and outs of putting on a major musical production from auditions to show-time. We have professionals work to each child’s strength to create a positive atmosphere which bolsters self-esteem, team work, and a love for the theatre.”
Elizabeth Kent, the director of JStage, has seven productions under her belt. Elizabeth has 40 directorial credits in Los Angeles and Orange County and is a “method” acting coach for young actors pursuing a professional career in film and television. She also teaches at OCHSA.
Jennifer Lewis, the JCC cultural arts director who founded JStage added, “What sets JStage apart from other theatre programs is that everyone who auditions gets a part, and every cast member has his or her moment to shine. It is a high quality program that attracts youth looking to be professional actors, but also encourages participation from children with no theatre experience.” The productions feature professional costumes and sets, plus a cast party after the final performance. Rehearsals are once a week with additional rehearsals as needed for lead cast members. Jen notes that, “We encourage balance. Theatre is important but we understand so are other activities.”
The Merage Jewish Community Center is located at 1 Federation Way in Irvine. For additional information, call (949) 435-3400 or visit the website at www.jccoc.org.