A young girl lunges and thrusts an invisible sword
into her opponent and hovers triumphantly as her victim crumples to
the floor. Thus ends the scene as girls, age 8-13, rehearse for
"The Iliad," a drama characterized by betrayal, rage and vengeance,
premiering in November at A Red Orchid Theatre's Youth
It might seem odd to use an entire cast of young girls for
a drama filled with battle scenes, dead bodies and adult male
roles, but Director Steve Wilson and Craig Wright, the screenwriter
who adapted the script specifically for the girls, were going for
"These young girls will never get to play roles like this.
They'll never get these meaty roles to sink their teeth in," Wilson
says. "And how interesting to use women in a play with all male
roles where the women only show up as trophies, to empower
The girls screamed and writhed through the rest of the
reading and acting exercises. Witnessing the young actors dying to
join the dead bodies strewn on the makeshift stage is a chilling
experience. The believability of their performance doesn't reveal
their inexperience. Although many of the older girls have been with
the Youth Ensemble for three years since its inception, this is
their first drama, and the girls are anything but
"It's teaching me to be more of a serious actress," says
Kara Ryan, 13.
In the world of acting, kids are usually confined to
lighthearted scripts and productions, but Wilson says he believes
in the emotional capacity and capabilities of children. His goal is
to provide them with an opportunity to have a voice not only as
females, but also as children and as young actors.
"They want it," Wilson says. "I've posed the challenge and
they want to see it through. They want to prove to the world that
they can do this."
Wilson sees every difficulty as a teaching opportunity,
and the lessons the kids receive expand beyond the realm of
theater. Whether it be learning to focus within their craft or
understanding themselves and their reactions, such as anger or
grief, these are lessons only provided by an emotionally charged
drama like "The Iliad."
A question-and-answer session after the play ensures the
audience experiences some educational benefits, too. And the
experts who will be answering the questions? The kids, of
"What better than kids teaching these other kids?" Wilson
says. "That's exciting to me."
The script reading comes to an end, and Wilson announces
they'll spend the last hour doing acting exercises.
All of the girls scream in delight before launching into a
dagger-throwing exercise. Daggers, giggles and all, the show must,
and will, go on.
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