Madrona Children’s Theatre to perform ‘School House Rock’ at MTHS this week

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Madrona Children's Theatre cast members performing "A Noun Is a Person, Place, or Thing" during rehearsal Sunday at Mountlake Terrace High School.
Madrona Children’s Theatre cast members — from left, Eric Butler, Julian Carr, Erin Hart, Natasha Thompson, with Sully Hart in the background — performing “A Noun Is a Person, Place, or Thing” during rehearsal Sunday at Mountlake Terrace High School. (Photos by David Carlos)

Madrona Children’s Theatre
at
 Mountlake Terrace High School

21801 44th Ave. W.
, Mountlake Terrace
School House Rock Live!
Thursday-Sunday, March 26-29

Performance schedule is detailed below.

Brisk ticket sales are being reported as the hours dance forward this week’s Madrona Children’s Theatre production of “School House Rock: Live!”

Photographer David Carlos was able to catch the action at one of the final rehearsals as we snuck behind the stage for some quick-quick interview moments with director Nikki Fey-Burgett (NFB). (You can see all of David’s photos at this link.)

Nikki was very generous with her time and we know that you will want to listen in on this exclusive interview:

Director Nikki Fey-Burgett discussing a scene with the actors.
Director Nikki Fey-Burgett discussing a scene with the actors.

EH: Your current directing efforts with Madrona Children’s Theatre will bring to the community the very popular, “School House Rock: Live!” With the rise of the curtain just days away . . . how is the production shaping up?

NFB: We are in that magical (yet stressful), transitional time where we have left our rehearsals on a small, “gymnatorium” stage and have begun bringing our show to life in a much bigger venue, in the wonderful theater at Mountlake Terrace High School. Every single rehearsal brings a lot of growth, and our progress has been great! We will definitely be ready to open on Thursday.
– – –

EH: Now in its 23rd year, the original cast members of Madrona Children’s Theatre’s early days (1993 and coming forward) must have children of their own. Are you aware of any second-generation little actors in “School House Rock: Live!”

NFB: No, I don’t think I’m directing any offspring of the original MCT actors, but both my stage manager, Diane Jamieson, and the lighting designer, Dave Dolacky, have grown children who were once on the boards in an MCT show.
– – –

EH: Whose efforts support The Madrona School?

NFB: I’m honored to work with the very talented musical duo of Mark and Nancy Press, as Music Director and Assistant Music Director, respectively. They have been with MCT since the first show, and were an integral part of the theatre program’s inception. I really enjoy working with them, and on this show in particular, as we have pretty much created the show together. What a joy to work with such talented artists!

And my spouse and I are working on the show together as well. Laura is the set coordinator for the show and is also one of our assistant stage managers. I think the most wonderful thing that happens at Madrona, however, is that, sometimes, entire families will work on the show together, with siblings in the cast and parents backstage as stage crew.

Madrona parents are very “hands-on,” and often a family gets to share the theatre experience together. I just love seeing that happen!
– – –

EH: What behind-the-scenes discussions took place in determining the potential for “School House Rock: Live!”

NFB: Mark and Nancy and I got together last fall to discuss the perusal scripts we had read in preparation for this year’s production. We got very excited at that meeting, because we were all of the opinion that it was time for Madrona students to do something other than the same traditional shows they had done for decades, with full scripts (often written for adults to perform), a few featured roles and a chorus. We realized at that meeting that “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” had the potential to allow every student to participate more than a traditional play, through improvisation, singing and more stage time. We took a script, which had traditionally been performed by six actors and expanded it to two casts of over 35 actors, allowing them to have featured solos or duets, and several different acting roles within the show. There are many more scenes where the entire cast appears than smaller scenes. This was our goal, to allow more children to experience a show that they actually help to create through creative drama and improvisation. We have never lost our excitement about this opportunity for the Madrona students, not a single day since that meeting.
– – –

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Jasmine Boerner, Quinlon Merrin, Stephany Janssen and Amelia Andress perform “A Noun Is a Person, Place, or Thing.”

EH: As director, how do you manage the stage-call ‘jitters’ of your little stars? What pre-production coaching would you advise for parents of children going on stage?

NFB: I actually put health and rest and hydration at the very top of the list as we approach opening. We are putting in long hours of rehearsal at MTHS, and the students still have to do their homework and be present in school. They can’t possibly perform well in “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” if they are not taking care of themselves. Jitters will disappear when a child is rested and ready to perform.

Mark and Nancy’s musical warm-ups before a performance are fun and challenging, and go a long way toward relaxing and preparing the children to go onstage.
– – –

Kaitlyn Robinson performs performing "Sufferin' 'Til Suffrage."
Kaitlyn Robinson performs performing “Sufferin’ ‘Til Suffrage.”

EH: What is the most rewarding joy – What is the darkest challenge – in directing children versus adult thespians?

NFB: “Joy” is the perfect word to describe how I feel about working with young people in theatre. Sure, it’s wonderful to see any child meet the challenge of creating a role, memorizing lines and lyrics, etc., but for me there is profound satisfaction when the process has built within that child some real courage and a sense of accomplishment met with the immediate feedback of a supportive audience. A child may not be overly athletic or strong, and for that child, theatre provides another avenue of teamwork and victories. Watching children gain confidence while learning to fearlessly express what is inside them… there is simply nothing that makes me happier. The “dark” side is that young children, of course, have no control over their lives and unfortunately, there are parents who do not recognize the benefits of theatre and the arts, so those children may not be offered the opportunity to participate. I applaud programs like Madrona Children’s Theatre, because it is open to every single student (4th through 8th grade), who wants to participate. I wish that sort of program existed in every school!
– – –

EH: What attributes, what tolerances, what perspectives make your resume so rich with experiences of all kinds? [Why do you think your career as a Director continues to be so successful?]

NFB: I faced many challenges when I was a young person, and music and theatre gave me a focus that helped me develop and grow in a way that I would not have otherwise. A good actor will use those challenges and experiences to enhance their craft and a director is no different. In addition to professional training, personal experiences of all kinds can bring a richness and texture to the directorial process that benefits the entire production. I was blessed with excellent training and opportunities so I have been able to have a long career in theatre, and hope to continue for as long as I can.
– – –

Tickets for “School House Rock: Live!” are available by contacting Kerry Brockman at madronatickets@gmail.com or by calling 425-772-1421.

Performance Schedule:
Thursday, March 26 at 7 p.m.* (Inventor cast), Friday, March 27 at 7 p.m. (Explorer cast), Saturday, March 28 at 2 p.m.* and 7 p.m. (Inventor cast), Sunday, March 29 at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. (Explorer cast). *ASL interpreted performance.

— By Emily Hill

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