“The sun will come out…” (WITH GALLERY) – La Tribune

ASHLAND, Ky. — Since January, students at Aspire! The Conservatory of Fine and Performing Arts participated in weekly rehearsals for two major shows at the end of the month.

Led by Auretta Hensley, of Ironton, the cast of 30, ages 7 to 18, prepare to perform the musical “Annie Jr.” at 7 p.m. on April 29 and 30 at the John P Stephens Cultural Arts Center at Raceland High School.

Students split into two groups for rehearsals at the Beech Street Christian Church in Ashland on Thursday, with young children learning the steps of a dance to “You’re never fully dressed without a smile”, while the teenagers rehearsed the dramatic aspects of the show. .

The show is a condensed version of the 1977 Broadway musical, based on cartoonist Harold Gray’s “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip. The show has been adapted for film twice, first in 1982 by legendary director John Huston, then again in 2014 with a mostly African-American cast.

Take the lead role for the Aspire! The production is Phoebe Smith. She is joined in the cast by her sister, Mary Ann Smith, who plays Miss Hannigan, the adversary of the orphan who runs the foster home.

Hensley said that in addition to the actors, there were five on the show’s camera crew.

Cast members come from all over the tri-state, including one from Ironton, her daughter, Annah Hensley, who plays scheming boyish Lily St. Regis.

Hensley, who taught acting for Aspire! For six years, says the program provides an outlet for many young people that cannot be found elsewhere.

“A lot of kids have no experience with theater or live performance,” she said. “It’s good to follow them and see them grow over the semester and find a niche in acting that they don’t have in school.”

During Thursday’s rehearsals, they were given tips on how to position themselves on stage for multi-character scenes, with Hensley outlining how the stage would be framed by the audience and to make sure they didn’t block each other.

Hensley said drama is beneficial for children in that it teaches “discipline and articulation.”

“And they can analyze a script and see where a character starts and where it ends and say, ‘Why are they doing this? ‘” she said.

She said she’s also seen him help introverted kids grow up.

“You give them a script and that gives them confidence and from there it translates into everyday life,” she said. “They go think, “If I can do it on stage as a character, why can’t I do it in everyday life?”

She said the experience also promotes teamwork and makes participants empathic and supportive of one another.

“They try new things and know they’re doing it in a safe environment,” she said of the atmosphere.

Strive! Launched about a decade ago and offers music lessons, including piano, woodwinds and others, as well as fine arts, for young people, and with some lessons at the adult level.

Hensley said those interested can visit the nonprofit’s webpage, at https://www.aspireconservatory.com, where a list of courses is posted and a registration form is available.

As for upcoming theater events, she said they will be offering a week-long day camp this summer, which teaches all aspects of theater, including character development, sets, props, stage make-up and lighting.

Hensley said for a typical Aspire! show, the technical end is run by volunteers, but the camp allows students to learn that side of the field.

She said the theater program has grown exponentially recently.

“Over the past two years, it’s exploded,” she said, noting that her average class size has grown from 18 to 30. “People see the shows and we grow, and the response is going very, very well.”

Tickets for the shows can be purchased through Aspire! Web page and Facebook page or at the door and cost $10 each.

In addition to the show, there will also be a character breakfast at the church, located at 1672 Beech St. in Ashland, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 23. and the cast members will be in full dress and perform three songs. The event will serve as a fundraiser for the program and costs $8 per plate and $5 for children 12 and under.

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