Kids learn about theater, local history

B y Derek Liebig

 

A fictional character who dined with the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving, sailed the seas with Christopher Columbus, witnessed the Battle of Valcour and lent Horace Greeley a helping hand is now helping local youths learn about theater and Whitehall history.

“Summer Theater with Johnny Vic” is a free children’s theater program run by the Arts and Recreation Commission of Whitehall. Participating students write and stage a historical play about Whitehall.

The program is led by Ann Duncan, author of the Johnny Vic series of novels.

“We’re using Martin Kelly’s play ‘Whither Whitehall’ and interjecting Johnny Vic into the story,” Duncan said during a recent rehearsal.

The play, titled “Johnny Vic’s Whitehall Adventure,” will be set in historic Whitehall during the 1800s.

“Johnny Vic has a magical metal detector and when he scans something the air explodes into a kaleidoscope of color and he’s transported back into time,” Duncan said.

She was reluctant to reveal too much about the plot, wanting to keep it a surprise, but did say that Whitehall had some very large and exciting fairs during the 19th century that Johnny Vic will visit during the play.

Along the way he will meet several historical figures, including New York Tribune founder Horace Greeley and famed English novelist Charles Dickens. 

She is also working with the Whitehall historical society and Carol Senecal to come up with a list of Civil War veterans from Whitehall that would be integrated into the production. 

“It’s a great chance for kids to learn about history. So much of what kids learn about American history today is inaccurate. I wanted to do something to teach them about our history and remind them we’re a good nation,” Duncan said.

The program has also been an opportunity for kids to learn more about the different aspects of theater.

Besides the obvious acting and singing you would expect from a staged play, the kids are given the chance to tailor the lines to their specific talents and assist in the creating the productions theatrical background.

“We’re having lots of fun with scenery. The kids are enlarging drawings and using them to create props,” Duncan said.

About ten youths, mostly from Whitehall, have meet at Cooke’s Island Recreation Center every Thursday since July 14 and rehearsed their lines, fine-tuned their singing and played out some of the stories scenes.

They are joined by Colin Thompson who will be the production’s narrator. Thompson starred in last year’s production of “Crossroads to Freedom.”

At a recent rehearsal, kids gathered on stage and received instructions from Duncan.

Hands-on, Duncan sung one of the songs she wrote for the play to the children, illustrating which notes needed to be emphasized and the tempo of the song.

She also offered words of encouragement and relayed her own experiences on stage, telling them how she was very shy as a kid and actually passed out before a performance.

“I know what it’s like to be on a stage,” she said. “You have to forget you have an audience.”

The kids seemed to heed that advice as the morning wore on showing steady improvement with every repetition of the play’s opening song.

“Theater is all about repetition,” she told the cast.

Dave Mohn, managing director of the ARCW, said he was looking to add a children’s program when Bob Gendron, who serves on the organizations board of directors, suggested Duncan.

A Poultney, Vt., resident who grew up in Ticonderoga, Duncan worked in journalism and public relations before her husband suggested she begin writing.

She based the Johnny Vic character on her treasure hunting brother, John Victor Pulling, who owns the rights to the historic Moore Creek Gold Mine in Alaska.

The stories follow the exploits of a young boy with a magical metal detector who travels through time meeting significant historical figures.

The books have received praise for their ability to get kids excited about history, Duncan said.

“Summer Theater with Johnny Vic” will stage a public performance at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 26 at Cooke’s Island Recreation Center.

To make reservations, call the ARCW at 499-2435 or 499-0687.

Comments

comments

Read more in this week's Times in newsstands now or click here to read right now with our e-edition.

Tags: , , ,

Village schedules July fireworks

granville fireworks

By Matthew Saari The Granville Village Board has scheduled the village’s annual July 4 fireworks display and Summer Concert series, […]

Village sets leaf, brush pick-up dates

leafs

The Village of Granville is planning a number of leaf and brush pick-ups this spring. Department of Public Works crews […]

Rutland Rec provides workers’ kids camp

Rutland Recreation and Parks Department logo

By Jared Stamm The Rutland Recreation Department has partnered with Rutland Regional Medical Center, Visiting Nurses Association and the Greater […]

Village’s public hearing continuing

Whitehall Municipal Center.

By PJ Ferguson The public hearing regarding the village’s comprehensive revitalization plan will remain open until Tuesday, April 14, as […]

Local slate company retools, makes PPE

slate

Millennium Slate LLC is reopening and retooling its plant to make personal protective equipment (PPE) for the Covid-19 pandemic. On […]

Telescope offers production services, state remains mum

telescope

By Matthew Saari With COVID-19 cases continuing to mount, New York State is ignoring businesses fully capable of producing personal […]

Farmers dumping milk because of pandemic

dairy dump

By Matthew Saari It may be time to start crying over spilled milk. Dairy farmers locally and across the country […]

Obituary: Maxine R. St. Claire

St.Claire, Max1 photo 2

    Whitehall- Maxine R. St. Claire, a devout catholic, loving wife, Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, passed through the […]

Obituary: Kenneth Robert Johnson

Johnson obit photo

After a brave battle with COPD, Kenneth “Ken”, “Kenny” Robert Johnson, passed away at his home on Friday, March 20, […]

Gov. Cuomo, Main Street needs a hand from Albany

nypalogo

Covid-19 has completely changed the way we all live. But along with worrying about keeping themselves and their families healthy, […]

County faces financial ‘uncertainties’

The Washington County Board of Supervisors

By PJ Ferguson Washington County officials are clouded by financial uncertainties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic with County Administrator Chris […]

School slated to resume soon, officials await state guidance

Whitehall High School

By PJ Ferguson As the news develops around the COVID-19 pandemic, the Whitehall Central School District faces some changes and […]