The STAR Academy, a one week children’s theater program with the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council (SWAAC), is set and ready to put on their annual play with this year’s title “Calamity at the Circus” this Friday night, July 23, at 6 p.m. at Hempstead Hall, free of charge.
This year’s play is a sequel to the play the STAR Academy put on in 2019, “Trouble Blooms at Ruby Rose Ranch.” Set in the town of Terra Firma, villains, Joan and Jett Blackheart, use this big top spectacle to plan their escape from the Terra Firma prison, rob the local bank, and skedaddle into the sunset. Fortunately, our heroes, Dusty and Rusty, are in town to see the circus and uncover the Blackheart’s prison break scheme.
“In the original play, the villain was doing a tax property scheme on the town and a lot of the same characters have come back,” Lindsey Honea, Past President of the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council, said. “The villain is in jail from the original play and her gang has come back to break her out of jail and in the process stealing a diamond, but they’re doing it under the cover of a circus.”
There are 11 kids ages 8 to 17 participating in the program this year, a significant drop from previous years, but Honea says that it’s worked out for the better.
“This year it is a smaller crowd in terms of kids, but ironically it worked out because this play is perfect for the number of roles we have,” she said.
The STAR Academy program is only one week long so the kids participating had only just one week to rehearse and memorize their lines and blocking.
“We started this Monday with the kids and they only go 8-12,” Honea said. “A lot of the kids already know the script and I couldn’t even remember all of these things myself. Within four days, with these children just getting the script, they’re already this far. It’s very impressive.”
Chris Espinoza, the director and playwright of the play from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, is very proud of how the girls have handled the material.
“I wrote this but it’s such a joy to have to laugh because these girls make it so funny,” he said.
This is Espinoza’s second year doing this program in Hope and Honea is very happy with the work he’s doing with the kids.
“Chris is amazing,” she said. “He’s very good with the kids and it’s all coming together. It’s been a big group effort and what makes this fun is that it’s only kids, so there’s no adults other than Chris. These kids are coming up with their own ideas. They’ll find something they want to add in and Chris loves it. It’s been very entertaining.”
This is only Espinoza’s 2nd show since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and he says the kids in Hope are one of the best he’s ever worked with.
“There’s something about these kids,” he said. “I’ve never done this show before. I wrote it specifically for this group and the first time I did this, I did the same and they did it like pros. It’s a brand new show and I’m creating the blocking as we’re going and it’s working like a charm. There’s something in the water… melons… here in Hope.”
“Calamity at the Circus” premieres at Hempstead Hall Friday, July 23 at 6:00 p.m. and is free of charge. Come out and support the local kids.