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Young local Catholics perform at national theater festival

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January 31, 2011

By Mike Dyer

 

ST. LAWRENCE DEANERY — The opportunity to perform in front of a national theater audience and Broadway professionals had 18 students from our Lady of Victory School filled with anticipation as they traveled to Atlanta the weekend of Jan. 14-16.

The group enjoyed the chance to showcase their talents among a total of 2,200 attendees and 54 schools from across the United States and Canada at the 2011 national Junior Theater Festival at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta. 

The young actors, in grades five through eight, received an invitation for their appearance at the festival. They won four national awards after performing selections from “Seussical,” a production based on Dr. Seuss stories.

Our lady of Victory theater group
Members of the student theater group at Our Lady of Victory pose for a photo. Pictured from left in the front row are Jordan Licata, Ryan Smith, Kalie Kaimann, Sammi DiTullio, Lizzy Puttmann and Jay Quitter. In the middle row are Michael Ashley, Abby Zureick, Karly Hofmann, Erin Morgan, J.C. Burg and Christina Diersing. In the back row are Julie Deye, Alisson Seissiger, Savannah Boeppler, Kelsey Finn, Angie Lobono and Dana Wink. (Courtesy photo)

“What I loved about Our Lady of Victory’s performance was that these students gave me some fresh, new interpretations of the show,” said Butler University professor Kenny Shepard, who was one of the judges at the festival. “Their performance was clever and concise. To me, they embodied the spirit of musical theater because they told the story through every aspect of their performance, from vocals and staging, to acting and movement.”

The students earned Freddie G awards for outstanding achievement in technical theater and dance, and student Sammi DiTullio earned an Outstanding Female Actress Award. The Freddie G awards are named in honor of Music Theatre International chairman Freddie Gershon for his work with youngsters.

John Jung and his wife, Kristie, are co-directors of the Our Lady of Victory’s Grade School Players, the group which includes about 100 students overall in the school’s theater program.

Jung was one of eight educators from across the country selected for the Freddie G Experience Award, a fully funded weekend experience in New York City where he will be able to take in performances, celebrations and workshops.

   Before the group left for Atlanta, Jung said the students were “bouncing off the walls” and were “ecstatic” about the opportunity.

Kalie Kaimann, an eighth grader at Our Lady of Victory, said it was a “blessing” to have the opportunity to perform in front of such a distinguished audience.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said before the trip. 

In Atlanta, Kaimann earned an opportunity to be considered for an upcoming DVD taping later this year.

The Junior Theater Festival is the world’s largest musical theater festival and it works with elementary and middle schools students. Each group performed a 15-minute selection of a musical for evaluation by a panel of theater professionals.

The festival, established in 2003, featured special guests that included a four-time Tony nominated composer, a Grammy award-winning musician, a Tony Award-winning lighting designer, television wardrobe specialist, actors and entertainment executives.

Our Lady of Victory students also had the opportunity to participate in interactive workshops led by Broadway professionals and attended a production at the famous Fox Theatre.

“It was a lot of fun,” Jung said. “We had a great time.”

Valerie Kaimann, a parishioner at Our Lady of Victory, was one of eight parents that chaperoned the trip. She said before the trip that her daughter, Kalie, who had a lead role in the performance and has been involved with the group since the fifth grade, was really looking forward to the experience.

Kaimann credited the co-directors with having the ability to lead the group in a very effective way in the theater program.

“They are very good (with) working with children and placing them where they can shine and showcase their own individual talents,” she said.

Jung said he and wife enjoy every minute they have with the students in the school program. They have been involved with the group for the past nine years and are working on their seventh show.

“For six months, it totally engulfs my life and I love it,” said Jung, who is a member of St. Joseph Parish in North Bend.

Kathy Kane, who has been principal at Our Lady of Victory for the past four years, said the Jungs “really can bring the best out of the students with the level of performances and the ability to give students a sense of identity.

“I think this is a ministry for John and Kristie,” Kane said, adding that they have led by Christian example with instructing the students on how to use their God-given talent in a beneficial way.

The theater program encourages students to put their creativity to work through the process of helping with the entire production process. Students also assist with choreography, staging and other elements of shows.

“The two directors, John and Kristie, are absolutely fantastic,” Kalie Kaimann said. “They are so supportive.”

The group has also received significant support from the community.

“We have several wonderful people that help with the drama program here at OLV, including teachers, parents, alumni, alumni parents and sometimes community members with big hearts,” Jung said. “They help with anything, including costumes, makeup, set construction, concessions and backstage tech.”

The group constantly tries to embody God’s kindness in every way.

Jung said the school’s theater program has always focused on finding performances that align with Catholic values. The group performed “The Wizard of Oz” a few years ago, emphasizing the faith-filled theme of “no place like home” to find true happiness.

“Seussical,” which was originally performed in April of 2008 by the students, emphasizes human dignity, Jung said, a value important to teaching students that God regards every human with respect. It also strives to teach that Jesus loves everyone in all walks of life.

On Jan. 2 the group put their faith into practice when they took time to cook dinner and perform “Seussical” for residents at the Ronald McDonald House in Clifton.
“Our students are very blessed and wish to be a blessing to others,” Jung said.

Not only was it a time to help residents, but it gave the group a good practice run for the festival. “The kids loved it and had a great time,” he said.
Kalie Kaimann said she was glad the students could share their theatrical talents while also helping others.

“It was so sweet to give people food and give them entertainment,” she said.

The next step for the young actors will be a springtime performance of Disney’s “High School Musical 2” April 13-16 at Our Lady of Victory.
They have already began practice for that performance.

“I’m very excited about it,” Kaimann said. “I think the cast will be wonderful.”

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