Playhouse's Youth Theater unveils new season

October 01, 2004

Tom Titus

Young audiences at the Laguna Playhouse will have their imaginations

tweaked by a trio of productions by the playhouse's Youth

Theater ranging in theme from cuteness and fantasy -- including

the world premiere of a century-old story -- to the harsh reality of

teens with weapons and the tribulations of America's pioneer days.

Starting things off in two weeks will be "Lilly's Purple Plastic


Purse," a family play by Kevin Henkes, adapted for the state by Kevin

Kling. The Lilly in the title is a mouse -- an irrepressible rodent

who loves everything about school, especially her teacher.

This mood changes when the instructor confiscates Lilly's purse,

which plays a musical tune each time it's opened, because she can't

stop playing with it in class. Lilly exacts revenge with a nasty

drawing of the teacher, but then is filled with remorse when she

finds the kind note he left in her purse.

Playhouse education director Donna Inglima is staging this

production, which will play from Oct. 15 to 24.

L. Frank Baum, who introduced young people to "The Wizard of Oz"

(produced by the Youth Theater last season), has another entry in

Laguna's upcoming slate, this one a world premiere. It's called "The

Life and Adventures of Santa Claus," a musical fantasy commissioned

by the playhouse and adapted by Greg Atkins.

Originally published in 1902, soon after "Wizard," this concept

imagines that Santa Claus once was a human foundling child adopted by

woodland fairies, who grows up surrounded by elves and other

"immortals" of the natural world. Claus decides that his mission in

life should be to bring joy to mortal children by making and

distributing toys.

Joe Lauderdale, director of the Youth Theater, is helming the

show, with musical direction by Diane King Vann. Performances are

scheduled from Dec. 10 to 19.

The mood turns somber in February when the playhouse's Theater for

a New Generation presents another world premiere, "Give a Boy a Gun"

by Todd Strasser. Inglima has adapted the story for the stage and

will direct this nonsubscription play recommended for ages 13 and


The play focuses on two high school sophomores who have been

harassed, beaten up, and cursed out by most of the jocks at their

school. Armed with guns they've stolen from a neighbor's collection,

the pair storm a school dance and prepare to turn their high school

caste system upside down with a violent show of force.

This sobering play, with its haunting shadows of Columbine, will

be presented for one weekend only, Feb. 4 to 6. Since the material is

frank in language and subject matter, parental discretion is being


Closing out the Youth Theater season will be "Sarah, Plain and

Tall," Patricia MacLachlan's tale of a widowed Kansas farmer in the

late 19th century who enlists a woman from Maine to care for his two

children. Will this homesick lady stay with the youngsters or return

to her Eastern roots?

Lauderdale is directing the show, which is adapted by Joseph

Robinette from MacLachlan's Newberry Medal-winning novel. It's

ticketed for May 6 to 15 at the playhouse.

Season subscriptions are available for "Lilly," "Santa" and

"Sarah," along with individual show tickets. Prospective audience

members may call the theater at (949) 497-2787 for additional


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