Whether it’s the story of a reluctant ogre and his donkey sidekick, or the original “Amazing Race” with stampeding elephants, raging typhoons and unabashed slapstick, California State University, Northridge’s Teenage Drama Workshop (TADW) has a theatrical adventure for the entire family this month.
The acclaimed summer youth theater program is presenting “Shrek the Musical Jr.” from July 13 to 22 and “Around the World in 80 Days,” based on the Jules Verne classic, from July 8 to 23, at CSUN.
“For nearly 60 years, Teenage Drama Workshop has been presenting highly entertaining, professional-quality shows that, in many cases, introduce the art of live theater to young audiences,” said CSUN theatre professor Doug Kaback, TADW’s executive director. “Our productions feature the creative work of professional directors and scenic, costume and lighting designers, but always keep the focus on our emerging teen artists as they shine on stage and behind the scenes.
“You never know what talent will emerge from our program,” continued Kaback, noting that TADW’s alumni include Elizabeth McGovern of “Downton Abbey” and Mare Winningham of “American Horror Story,” as well as Daniel David Stewart, who appeared in the recent Broadway production of “Spring Awakening.”
TADW started out as an activity for teens, to call attention to the cultural resources available at what was then San Fernando Valley State College. Over the years, the workshop has grown into a nationally acclaimed drama program.
One of the nation’s oldest such programs, TADW immerses the teenagers — this year, there are more than 60 students in grades seven to 12 — in the day-to-day reality of a professional theatrical troupe, from designing lighting, costumes and sets to learning lines and choreography during an intense six weeks, which started June 13.
In the mornings, the teenagers attend classes in acting, voice and dance. They can choose electives in improvisation, musical theater, playwriting or the technical aspects of theater production. The afternoons are spent in rehearsal, building sets or putting together costumes and props.
“Shrek the Musical Jr.,” based on the popular DreamWorks movie, takes audiences on a journey with a reluctant ogre and his donkey sidekick as they travel through a land of banished fairy tale creatures, confront an evil king and encounter a mysterious princess. The stage is set for an enchanting musical features with a fiery dragon, true love’s first kiss and a curse that must be broken. The play is directed by theater veteran Ray Saar.
Audiences will have to hold on to their seats as they go “Around the World in 80 Days,” an original adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic by theater veterans Ronnie Sperling and Chris Halsted, who also are directing the production. The journey will include comedy, music, exotic locations and cultures, and a little suspense.
There will be 10 performances of each show, with one performance set aside as “sensory friendly” — to make the theater experience accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum or people with special needs. The sensory-friendly performances are scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 9, for “Around the World in 80 Days” and at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 16, for “Shrek the Musical Jr.”
To make those shows sensory friendly, subtle adjustments will be made, including a slight dimming of the house lights and a reduction of jarring sound or strobe lights focused on the audience. There will be a pre-performance introduction of the characters and a synopsis of what will be happening on stage. In the lobby, there will be quiet areas for those who need a break during the performance. This is the fourth year Teenage Drama Workshop has offered sensory friendly performances.
In addition to the two plays, TADW also will present its annual “10Minute Play Festival,” where student playwrights explore the dreams and challenges of their lives in original, short plays. Students in TADW’s playwriting and improvisation electives collaborate to bring the idea from “page to stage” in six weeks.
Performances of “Shrek the Musical Jr.” are scheduled for 7 p.m. on July 13, 14, 15, 16 and 20; 11 a.m. on July 15, 20, 21 and 22; and 2 p.m. on July 16 in CSUN’s Campus Theatre in Nordhoff Hall. Nordhoff Hall is located at the southwest corner of the campus near Etiwanda Avenue and Nordhoff Street in Northridge. The 11 a.m. performance on Wednesday, July 20, is sold out.
Performances of “Around the World in 80 Days” are scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. on July 8, 14 and 16; 11 a.m. on July 13, 15, 20, 21, 22 and 23; and 2 p.m. on July 9 in CSUN’s Little Theatre, also in Nordhoff Hall. The 11 a.m. performances on July 20, 21 and 22 are sold out.
The “10Minute Play Festival” is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. on July 21 and 22 in the Little Theatre.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children, seniors and groups of 10 or more. Tickets can be purchased through the A.S. Ticket Office on campus or by telephone at (818) 677-2488.