24 December 2009

Young actors cut their dramatic teeth
on new play at Ron Maslin



Tristan Williams is no stranger to the stage.

At the age of eight, he has already been in multiple Kanata Theatre productions and is looking forward to his next role as Benny Alden in The Boxcar Children.

"I really like acting," he said. "It's fun. I get to act on stage and entertain lots of people."

Casting of The Boxcar Children happened back in September and the actors have been rehearsing three times a week since. Tristan said it took him two months of studying to learn the whole play.

"The only thing I don't like is studying," he said. "Study, study, study."

In the play, Tristan plays the youngest of four siblings whose parents have died. Scared of being separated, he and his brother and sisters Henry, played by Nicholas Harrison, Jessie, played by Emma Sangali, and Violet, played by Katie Baker, decide to run away together.

The four stumble upon an abandoned boxcar which they fashion into a makeshift home.

As they struggle to survive, the four learn to rely on one another and realize the true meaning of family.

Twelve-year old Baker said The Boxcar Children is a perfect play for the holidays.

"Everyone is so busy at this time of year and this really gives the important message of family," she said.

Playing a character like Violet is new for the Bridlewood girl. Baker takes drama lessons throughout the year at Kanata Theatre but said she is used to playing outgoing, animated characters. Violet on the other hand is a very shy, proper, clean and tidy character.

"I really like the challenge of acting her," she said. "I'm not a shy actor so it's really challenging to stay quiet."


Kanata Theatre normally puts on a musical production at this time of year but decided to step away from that tradition this year.


Kareen Lively, who has been with Kanata Theatre since 1993, pushed for The Boxcar Children to be this year's holiday production.

"I thought it would be a good message that people could relate to and (they) wouldn't care if we weren't singing and dancing," said Lively.

Lively is making her directorial debut with this play and said the experience of working with a cast made up of predominantly children has been amazing.

"They were off book before some of the adults," she said. "They're phenomenal really. I love it."

She said the whole idea of directing was intimidating before she started, but once she got into it she just followed her instincts when making directorial decisions. She would ask the kids, 'Does that feel natural?' and would help them develop their characters during rehearsals.

"It's amazing because when you ask that question they begin to know that person in their head," she said.

The biggest challenge was keeping rehearsals exciting and fresh for the kids, she said. After a full day of school, rehearsing at night can get tiring and re­membering directions can be more dif­ficult, noted Lively.

Lively said she is looking forward to sharing the message of The Boxcar Children with families during the holiday season.

"It's very much about family and the bonds between siblings," said Lively. "It's very heartwarming and heartfelt. People will feel a sense of compassion for these kids."


The Boxcar Children runs from Dec. 27 to 30 and tickets are $8 for everyone. The Dec. 27 and 30 shows begin at 1 p.m. and the Dec. 28 and 29 shows begin at 4 p.m. Tickets are available at the Ron Maslin Playhouse box office, 1 Ron Maslin Way, one hour ahead of each performance or by phone at 613-831-4435.

Jennifer. burden@metroland. com

This article is reproduced
by kind permission of the author, Jennifer Burden