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The City Journals

Every kid has a role to play in Copperview Rec Center’s theater program

Aug 22, 2019 02:45PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Luke Summers of Sandy has had great experiences with the youth theater program. He had the lead role in Copperview Rec Center’s spring production of “Peter Pan, Jr.” (Photo courtesy of Amy Bennion)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Salt Lake County Recreation programs for sports have been around for decades. Copperview Recreation Center in Midvale has sports, but has also pioneered a youth theater program that’s giving kids of all abilities an opportunity to learn about theater and perform in musicals. The next chance to get involved is at auditions in September. 

“We do junior productions that are geared toward kid performers ages 8 to 18. I think we’re the only rec center that does theater. We’ve had a huge response in the last couple of shows, ‘Peter Pan, Jr.’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Jr.,’” said Eric Bonin, program coordinator at Copperview Recreation Center, 8446 S. Harrison St. (300 W.)

To run the theater program, Bonin said he relies on directors Micah Taylor and Alex Kalaher. “[Taylor] and [Kalaher] both have backgrounds in musical theater and in working with kids. They put in a huge amount of effort adapting the shows so that everyone has a role—even a line or two. And that way it’s a special for everyone. We couldn’t do this without them,” Bonin said. 

Auditions for the fall show ‘Bugsy Malone’ are Sept. 9 at 5 p.m. at Copperview. Kids should be registered ahead of time, and come prepared with a few lines of a song to sing. “This is just to assess the best place for them in the show,” Taylor said.  

Taylor said ‘Bugsy Malone’ is based on a 1976 movie that’s “a cult classic. It’s a musical, and the cast is all kids. The setting is speakeasies and gangsters with lots of singing and dancing. Instead of using guns they shoot whipped cream, which turns out to be lots of messy fun. It’s hilarious,” Taylor said.  

Due to the popularity of the theater program, Bonin said they have to limit how many kids can be in the show. “The first 35 that register will be guaranteed a spot. Anyone after that can audition and see if there’s an opening,” Bonin said.  

They’re also moving the performance venue. In the past they’ve used the stage room at Copperview, but Bonin said they’ve outgrown it. “We’ll do one performance on Nov. 15 at Midvale Middle School. We’re excited about the quality of equipment there, the lighting; it will all help with the production,” Bonin said.

“It will be great to use an actual stage with wings and a backstage and more space. In the small room at Copperview we’ve had kids make their own wings and changing rooms,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he’s pleased with how quickly the rec center’s theater program has grown. “It’s really new. [Kalaher] has been doing it probably four years, and I started two years ago. But it wasn’t fleshed out; they weren’t doing actual musicals. She made it better and helped it grow,” Taylor said.   

In addition to the musicals, Taylor and Kalaher ran two theater camps over the summer. They presented a musical revue, taught kids about improv and had the entire group recite a speech from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” 

“The kids we’ve had always come up afterward and say how much they loved it, and we get lots of repeat kids. That speaks for itself,” Taylor said.  

Ten-year-old Luke Summers played the role of Peter Pan in the spring show. “At the start of each rehearsal we begin with a fun game. [It] helps us feel like we don’t have so much pressure on us. It’s a good place to socialize and make new friends,” Luke said.

“Also, we don’t only rehearse. The directors actually teach us about acting, singing and dancing. The directors are fun and they make you feel comfortable. The plays turn out really well done,” Luke said. 

Luke’s mom, Krisi Summers, said there’s a lot to like about the theater program. “It’s affordable, it’s accessible for children of all skill levels, it’s low pressure and most of all it’s fun for the kids. I love that every child has a chance to have at least one solo or a line in the plays. The directors work well with the kids and give them individual attention,” she said. 

Summers said Luke has performed in two plays and attended three theater camps at Copperview Rec Center. “It’s been a great confidence booster for my son, and he looks forward to performing in the next play,” she added. 

Part of the niche that Copperview’s program fills is that it’s inclusive. “We open the show up to performers of all abilities. We’ll make accommodations so all kids, including those with a disability, will get a role. If that doesn’t work out, we also have an adaptive theater program,” Bonin said. 

Bonin and Taylor recommend registering for “Bugsy Malone” as soon as possible. People can register in person at Copperview, or online at Copperviewadaptive.activityreg.com. Search “theatre” (note spelling). The fee is $65 and includes a rehearsal CD. Rehearsals are Mondays and Wednesdays 5 to 8 p.m. There is one performance on Nov. 15.