Students from 23 schools in West Virginia and Ohio and home schoolers from both states will be performing on-stage as the Actors Guild of Parkersburg's Guild Builders production of Meredith Wilson's The Music Man Junior opens on Friday, Feb. 27, 2009, at the Actors Guild Playhouse, located at 724 Market Street in Parkersburg.

Based on the story by Franklin Lacey, Meredith Willson's The Music Man Junior follows fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill as he cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys' band he vows to organize - this despite the fact he doesn't know a trombone from a treble clef. His plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian the librarian, who transforms him into a respectable citizen by curtain's fall. Cast and crew will be comprised of members of Guild Builders, the Guild's youth theatre troupe.

Each performance will be preceded by a short original play entitled Hidden Secrets, written and produced by the Guild Builders Playwriting & Producing class. In this play, a motley group of orphans are traveling on a train to a marching band competition. Along the way, they decide they cannot go through with it. When their train stops, they jump off and find themselves in a deserted town. The past and the present combine to reveal "Hidden Secrets" about the town and the students themselves.

Evening performance dates are Fridays February 27 and March 6 and Saturday February 28. There will be matinee performances at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday March 7 and Sunday March 8. Ticket prices are $7.00 for adults and senior citizens and $5.00 for students through college. For more information or reservations call the Box Office at (304) 485-1300 or visit the web site at www.actorsguildonline.com

The entire cast and crew of the productions are 58 fourth through ninth grade students from the Mid-Ohio Valley. They have met every Saturday morning since September to learn all aspects of the theatre arts. The free six-month Saturday morning program offers weekly instruction and participation in all facets of theatre arts: acting - singing - movement and dance - set, props, and costume design and construction - lighting and sound - marketing art design - makeup - directing - stage management - playwriting.

Since the program's inception in 1997, the comprehensive program curriculum has offered weekly hands-on, specialty workshops including: Acting With an Accent, Jazz and Tap Basics, Movable Set Construction, Mask Making, Theater Superstitions, Voice & Projection, Magic, Marketing Design, Oriental Dance, Movement for Aged Characters, Improvisation, Puppetry, Clogging, Unusual Props Construction, Native American Dance and Song, Glues And Textures, Acting For The Camera, Researching Your Role, Acting With Emotion, Character Development, Preparing for an Audition, Dialects, Safe Stage Combat and Falls, Stage Swordplay, Acting with Emotion, Script Period History, Physical Performance: Dance & Movement for Actors, Theatre Games, Technical Roles, Script Period History, Physical Performance: Dance & Movement for Actors, Intro to Stage Lighting, and Specialty Theatre Makeup. Guest artists are invited to conduct a class or workshop in their particular area of expertise. New classes are added each season.

The technical students, in addition to learning the technical support skills for the production (stage managers, backstage, props, light board, sound, and follow-spot operation), also form the Playwriting & Producing class and create an original stage play, performed as a companion piece. The students create the characters, write the script, stage the scenes, design and assist in construction of their set and costumes, and perform their play prior to each of the five performances of the selected stage production. The culmination of the student's six-month effort is the use of all the skills they have learned in connection with the productions.

Each student's parents are required to volunteer for at least three days as parent monitors and to assist with the activities. Parents provide help with every aspect of the program: from providing "two deep" leadership with the children during classes and rehearsals, to sewing costumes, building and striking the set, to volunteering as make-up artists during dress rehearsals and performances. Without these extra hands, a program the size of Guild Builders would be unmanageable.

This is the twelfth year the Actors Guild has offered this free program for Mid-Ohio Valley youth, sponsored by Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital and supported in part by The Ross Foundation and the Ohio River Border Initiative, a joint project of the Ohio Arts Council and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. This program is being presented with financial assistance from Cherub patrons, the Belpre Area Community Development Foundation, Combined Federal Campaign, Artsbridge, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the WV Commission on the Arts, and in partnership with Mountain State Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Parkersburg Arts Center. Without the generous support of all the individuals, organizations, and foundations that fund Guild Builders, the comprehensive program would not be possible.

Young people who would like more information about the free program can add their names to the mailing list by signing up in the lobby during performances, by email at guildbuilders@yahoo.com, or by calling the Actors Guild Business Office at (304) 485-9322. Registration packets are mailed in July and acceptance is on a first-come, first-served basis.

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