In the summer of 2017, I was one of the co-directors for “Hello, Dolly!” Fendig Summer Theatre for Children hired a team of four people to direct the classic musical for the children of Rensselaer. I was feeling a little bit nostalgic this weekend and realized I never fully recapped my experience. Here it goes!
A little about Fendig: Fendig Summer Theatre for Children is a non-profit organization that teaches kids how to put on a full-length musical, all by themselves. There are no adults backstage during the show. They sing, they dance, act, run the lights, pull the curtains, make the props, do publicity. This is theatre for the children, by the children.
Our audition process with the kids started during finals week in May. I drove home to Rensselaer to host auditions before coming back for the trip to Germany. We had a total of 87 kids participate this summer. Fendig is free for the children. The only cost to them is for a t-shirt if they want one. Because of the cost, Fendig is only available for children grades four through eight who live in the Rensselaer school district. This limits the number of kids, we have so the quality of the production is high.
This show was a tricky one to do with kids, only because the show is so iconically humorous that some of it, or most of it is lost on the kids when they are acting it out. It also was difficult musically because of the voice ranges for the girls. The character Dolly has a lower register and most children still are in the higher register for singing. The show is a classic show that recently has been revived on Broadway. The humor of this show never gets old.
While the show was tricky, I had my own trials. This position was way different than the previous summer as assistant director. Taking creative liberties while also managing 87 children is really hard. In my mind as a director, my job was to serve Fendig’s mission and kids before myself and that’s what I tried to do.
I had so much fun directing this show with the team of people. Being able to direct my younger sister in Mary Poppins and my younger brother and cousin this year in "Hello, Dolly!" was something I will never forget. Doing a show is always very stressful, busy and full of challenges but the kids on opening night are always worth it. They worked so hard and took direction so well. We sold out all three nights and the kids were so proud of what they put on stage.
A children’s theatre typically is known for a cute kids show, but Fendig is known for putting on high quality shows that you forget the actors are children while you are watching. I had the privilege to go back to Rensselaer and watch the 2018 production of Disney's Newsies and was not disappointed. It was truly amazing to see how much the kids grow from year to year personally and professionally. I can't wait to see what they do next.
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