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Take a ride with the ‘Boxcar Children’

When Penny Caywood, director of the University of Utah Youth Theatre program first read the script adaptation of Gertrude Chandler Warner’s book series "The Boxcar Children," she knew it was something special.

"I didn’t read ‘The Boxcar Children’ when I was younger, but when I read the script for the first time, I found in the first seven pages, the scenes take place in five different locations," Caywood told The Park Record. "It was really fast paced and I liked that."

She also noticed the characters could be believably performed by young actors who could play their own ages.

"The story is about four children in a family whose parents have just passed away," Caywood said. "I could see that relationship while reading the script and I liked it right away."

So she scheduled the play as part of the Youth Theatre Program, but then things started to get really interesting.

"We formed a partnership with the Egyptian Theatre and they contracted with us to offer all their youth-theatre offerings, including the summer workshops and productions," she said. "It was a way to save money and still provide great training and performances for the children."

One of the perks was to present "The Boxcar Children" at Kingsbury Hall and the Egyptian Theatre.

"It’s good for us because we save money on the sets and the costumes and use the same production team for both runs," Caywood said. "We did decide, however, to have two casts one for Salt Lake and the other for Park City."

The Salt Lake production took place in March and the Park City production will run May 13 and 14 in the Egyptian Theatre.

The play, said Caywood, also helped the production team get creative.

"I didn’t know how we were going to present the play with all the different settings," she said. "So I thought we could incorporate some multimedia elements to get from place to place."

Multimedia set designs are nothing new in the theatre community, Caywood said.

"There are a whole bunch of shows, including major operas, that are using projections as part of the sets, so I thought we’d try it," she said.

Caywood and set designer Daniel Simons created the projection stencils.

"We do have some set representation cut outs that will be on the stage," Caywood clarified. "But most of the settings will be established with projections."

While the sets give a sense of place to the production, it’s the characters that bring it to life.

Emily Terran, a fifth-grader at Parley’s Park Elementary who plays Violet in the Park City cast, has been acting since she was two, but said "The Boxcar Children" is her first non-musical production.

"Musical theatre is definitely easier for me, but it’s been fun doing straight acting," she said. "Since musical theater is more exaggerated and this one is more of a serious play, it’s been hard at times actually getting into the character, because I’m usually singing and being fun and energetic."

Terran modeled Violet after one of her real sisters, she said.

"Violet is the one in the family who likes to be clean and have everything perfect, which is like my sister," she said. "When I was auditioning I was tried to see myself as my sister and went from there, because she likes things in their place."

As Terran developed her character, she also found characteristics of herself.

"She’s definitely like me in some ways," she said. "I also like to have things clean, and things like that, but not as much as she does."

When Terran takes the stage, she tries to immerse herself into the character, she said.

"I love seeing plays, so when I’m on stage, I don’t really think about it, I just do it," she said. "It’s fun to be another person, and entertaining an audience is a fun experience. "It’s great when you make people laugh while you’re on stage, and it’s great when you make people sad. You convince them that you are that character, and I like being able to put myself in someone else’s shoes."

The University of Utah Youth Theatre and the Egyptian Theatre Company will present "The Boxcar Children" on Friday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, May 14, at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adult and $7 for children and can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.


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