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An Old Classic Made New Again: Les Miserables School Edition at the SLOC Theater

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Les Miserables School Edition at the Schenectady Light Opera Company Theater

By Helen Holt

Les MiserablesPlays come and go, but the classics never seem to get old. Schenectady Light Opera Company (better known as SLOC) began its school edition of Les Miserables on Wednesday, April 13. For those who may not be familiar with the story, Les Miserables, translated as “the Miserable Ones,” is a narrative about a people’s struggle against adversity in 19th century France. The story follows the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption; the play examines the nature of law and grace and expounds upon the history of France, the architecture of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. Based on the French novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables was originally adapted into a play by Trevor Nunn and John Caird.

I spoke with Jane Figueroa, the show’s producer and founding member of the Youth Group Board of Directors to talk a little bit about the production and the back story of the youth arts program:

The Free George: What is your role with Les Mis?

Jane Figueroa: I am the producer.

TFG: You also have a daughter in the show?

JF: Yes, a fourteen year old.

TFG: I heard that the cast was made up of high school kids from all over the Capital Region. Can you tell me a little more about that?

JF: SLOC is developing a youth program and last year we did a show called 13 The Musical. We were not at our site here. It was a SLOC performance but we did it over at the Blackbox Theater. It was very successful, it was a lot of fun and the kids had a good time so we decided as a board that this was a part of our program that we really wanted to develop. So this year the board voted to do Les Miserables because it’s a classic tale, and we really started talking to the kids who did 13 last year and they told two friends and those friends told two friends…we ended up having 110 kids come out to audition for the show. We took 34 [kids] and the 34 represent 19 different schools and homeschooled kids, from as far out as Hudson, Ballston Spa, Schoharie, to Rensselaer County. We’re pulling from a broad demographic.

TFG: Your youth program is quite an interesting concept. I don’t recall anything like it, at least around here.

JF: Well, there are a number of theater youth programs in the area. I think what’s different with ours is that SLOC has made the commitment to do it and not charge the kids to do the show, so it doesn’t cost them to be in any of our performances. We also were very careful this year in looking at the schedules of our kids because a lot of them also do their school shows, and we wanted to make sure they could still participate in that and be a part of our show.

TFG: Are the kids involved behind-the-scenes?

JF: The majority of our stage crew are kids. The production teams are adults. Interestingly enough, a lot of us are teachers. One of the directors is a certified elementary school teacher. Our lighting guy is a teaching assistant in Guilderland, and our stage manager is a teacher also…  So we are all invested in kids on some level.

TFG: What would you say is the objective of the SLOC youth program?

JF: To give kids an opportunity to participate in something where their individual efforts come together to a collective whole that they can be really proud of. They have to work together, so there’s a huge piece of it that’s teamwork, relying on each other…it’s really about developing them not only as performers but as people, and I think it’s worked quite well.

TFG: What are the age ranges of those participating?

JF: The youngest in the show is 8 and the oldest is 18. This group in particular has plans of doing theater in college. Many are high school seniors, which we love, because of their experience and what they pass on to the other kids.

Even though Les Miserables has given its final performance on Saturday, April 16, the 2011 season will continue in May with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, directed by Joe Philips with more to come from the Youth Program in the future.

For more information, see www.sloctheater.org

–Helen Holt is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

Short URL: http://thefreegeorge.com/thefreegeorge/?p=10490

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