BREWER — “Why is my reflection someone I don’t know? Somehow I cannot hide, who I am, though I’ve tried. When will my reflection show who I am inside?”If these song lyrics by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel sound familiar to you, it is most likely because you are a fan of Disney movies, you were alive in 1998, or perhaps you listened to the radio at some point that year when Christina Aguilera’s cover rendition of this well known power ballad played from one of the highest grossing films that year: “Mulan”.
Flash forward to December 2017, and the child actors from Next Generation Theatre in Brewer are at it again, this time bringing “Mulan Junior” to the stage during the holiday season.
“Mulan Junior” will be performed at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8, 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, at Between Friends Art Center, 39 Center St.
The story of Mulan is set in an ancient China (the Northern Wei Dynasty), and follows the title character as she disguises herself and takes her ailing father’s place in the Chinese military to prove that a woman is both physically and mentally capable of achieving anything a man can.
The show features 37 local starlets ages 7-13, and includes authentic Chinese apparel with vibrant colors and rich textiles to appropriately pay homage to the culture and era represented. Costumes have been overseen and constructed by Jennie Ellis and Tracey Marceron, who is the owner, founder and artistic director of Next Generation Theatre.
“The kids at Next Gen really enjoy being able to pretend to be people from another culture and another period in history,” Tracey said as she reflected on the second show that has been produced this season (the first being “the Jungle Book”, which was performed in mid-November.) “Most musicals are written about different cultures and different time periods. Being careful not to offend, we do not use makeup or accents to portray Asian culture. Instead, we emphasize that this story can be about any time period and any culture in which a girl (or any person) can feel empowered and encouraged to become whoever she chooses even if clashes with what society believes.”
Emily Hughes, a 17-year-old director, has appeared in shows at Next Generation Theatre since 2010, and graduated into the role of one of the head directors a couple years ago. “Directing Mulan has been such an incredible experience!” She said, excitedly anticipating the show weekend. “I have watched as these children develop as actors, and the cast really bonded during our rehearsals. My favorite part about directing Mulan was watching these students become “warriors” themselves, and seeing how they applied lessons from the story in their own lives.”
Elliot Tuttle, an eighteen-year-old director, has appeared in shows at Next Generation Theatre since he was eight years old. When asked what he enjoyed most about directing, he said: “My favorite part is working with the kids and helping them find their own artistic voice. It’s so exciting to see how far each of them has come since even the beginning of the session.”
Fifteen-year-old Hannah Nilsson, one of the assistant directors and makeup artist for the show, has appeared in 18 productions at Next Generation Theatre. “I love to direct because I love to help kids come into their own. I have watched so many kids grow up into fantastic, talented, and kind people. Helping kids find their confidence using my love of theater is a blessing, and something I hope to continue to do the rest of my life.” She said.
Fourteen-year-old Brielle Biehn has appeared in 43 productions at Next Generation since she was 6 years old. She is in the position of assistant director, learning how to direct from her peers. “I’ve always been obsessed with theater,” she confessed, “but there is something really special about actually teaching kids at the theater. You learn so much about responsibility and problem solving. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to have quick thinking about how to handle certain situations. I wasn’t great at it at first but I’ve learned so much about how to handle these great kids and even how to handle myself. It’s truly incredible to watch certain students grow through the years of teaching them and working with them. I love it so much and I can’t wait to do it for years to come. My favorite part was becoming someone that these younger kids could look up to and trust.”
The title role has been double cast and both girls that play her, Alexis Scott and Madeline Flores, offer a unique and refreshing take on the character. “I enjoy playing the part of Mulan. She is a powerful, encouraging leader and inspires others to be the best that they can be.” Said Alexis when asked what she enjoys most about her part. “It is extremely fun to have the privilege of the lead part. Mulan is a very good role model and shows that women can break apart from stereotypes.” Madeline added.
Tickets are on sale for at Between Friends Art Center in Brewer. Call 989-7100 to reserve or purchase tickets.