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Area youths to present 'I Remember Mama'

by Franny White

STAFF WRITER

For the sixth year in a row, Harrison County kids are mixing their love for drama, desire to learn and a distinct youthful zest into a production of the All County Summer Theater program.

More than 30 kids, ranging from the 5th to 12th grade, will put their talents and four weeks of diligent practice to work this week in their version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway musical, "I Remember Mama."

Sponsored by the Harrison County Board of Education, the summer theater program gives Harrison County youths the chance to continue their dramatic education past the year's final school bell.

"We realize the importance of theater with children," said Sharon Diaz, Harrison County Schools theater consultant. Drama can support a child's self-esteem and recognize talents that may otherwise go unnoticed in a society that often focuses on sports, she said.

Play director Gregg Brown agrees.

"Being part of the theater teaches the students a lot about discipline that they wouldn't ordinarily have," Brown said. In addition, the program provides the kids with desire, determination and responsibilities, he said.

Julie Miker, a 2000 Lincoln High graduate who portrays Mama in the play, appreciates the program. She said it offers her a unique opportunity to find a common ground with other students from the entire county.

"There's a pull when a lot of people from all over the county come together," she said. When there's a play to produce, participants put aside their distinct school pride and personal needs for the good of the group, she said.

Many participants return year after year, forming close bonds and broadening their skills together, Assistant Director Charles Kovalan said.

Since program auditions were held in April, the play's participating 30 youths and 15 adult volunteers have survived 6-hour practices and pulled together, leading to their final goal -- this week's production.

And the show has turned into quite a charmer, Brown said. The program's production of "I Remember Mama" brings to life the kinship and struggles of a Norwegian family newly immigrated to San Francisco in the early 20th century.

"Its such a wonderful way for a family, in today's hard times, to come to the together and go back to a simpler time," said Brown.

But the play isn't all serious. One character, Uncle Chris, offers comic relief with his unique point of view as the black sheep of the family.

"There's a good mix of drama, humor and music," Kovalan said.

Beyond the usual orchestrated dances and lively music of Broadway, the play also features traditional Norwegian folk dance.

With the summer theater program's youthful spin on a respected Broadway classic, Diaz said people are sure to be pleased.

"It's a top-quality production," Diaz said. "People can't go to Pittsburgh and find anything better."

The All County Summer Theater's production of "I Remember Mama," dedicated to former Superintendent Robert E. Kittle, runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Bridgeport High School auditorium. Tickets are $7 at the door.

Staff writer Franny White can be reached at 626-1443.

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