Young people are taking the Perry Players Theatre stage by storm. For the first time ever, the Perry Players Teen Theatre Lab has written, produced and directed a play, with all the work being done by young people.
Hunter Hufnagel, 20, of Warner Robins, who is the writer and director of the play, said he has been involved with the Perry Players since he was 4 years old, and has been directing since 2014. He said the theater has had the Perry Players Youth Workshop for the past 20 years for younger kids who are just getting their feet wet in theater, but there wasn’t anything for older youths. The Teen Theatre Lab is for young adults ages 14 to 20.
“We started this more intensive program for young adults who are looking to delve in more deeper in theater sets, acting techniques, costume designs and lighting and sound design,” he said, adding that it is a three and a half week intensive lab where the students are there six hours a day Monday through Friday.
For a first-time lab, Hufnagel is pretty happy with the turnout, with 35 students filling up all the available slots. About 20 of the students are on stage during the show while the rest help with costumes, sets, stage management, lights and sounds.
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“Everyone has got a job doing what they are interested in doing and passionate about and wanting to grow in,” he said. “I got my start in this theater … I’ve been successful at being able to direct here. I’ve been wanting to help give back here and light the fire and give other young people a chance to grow in what they are passionate about.”
Hufnagel said the drama is a loss of innocence story about a young boy and his relationship with his grandparents. He said it is very reflective of some of the things people go through in childhood when they are forced to grow up quicker than they should, such as when things happen in a family or they lose someone. Hufnagel said he had a very strong relationship with his grandparents, and he wanted to write a play reflective of that.
“They do a great job of portraying the characters and bringing the story to life,” he said. “Most of the time, it takes a straight play, which is what this is … five to six weeks to mount the show, get it up. These kids built the set and had the set designed and finished in two days, and it is beautiful. They memorized their lines and were ready to rock and roll in their characters in less than a week. I think that is incredible.”
Cailyn Rushin, 18, of Warner Robins, said she first became interested in theater as a sophomore in high school. She just graduated and decided to try the Teen Theatre Lab. She plays the part of the grandmother in the play.
“Hunter has been a lot of help in teaching how to act through actions and how to portray my character in better ways,” she said. “There’s a lot more things I’m learning about having to become a character than I thought I could learn.”
Rushin said playing the grandmother at first it made her nervous. However, the training she has received has helped her mature and stretch her acting skills.
Hufnagel credits Michael Stewart, the technical director, with a lot of the success of the students by teaching them how to build things, run sound and lights, and work backstage. He also credited him with successful training of the “techies.”
Hufnagel said that after this premier performance of “The Hummingbird Room” he plans to submit it for publishing. “The Hummingbird Room” will run June 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m.; June 24 at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and final matinee June 25 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at perryplayers.org.
“The Hummingbird Room”
When: 7:30 p.m. June 22-24; 1:30 p.m. June 24 and 2:30 p.m. June 25
Where: Perry Players, 909 Main St, Perry
Information: 478)-987-5354; www.perryplayers.org