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Diving deep with God
Theater program comes alive with FCS Players
Madison Halpin, 11: "I like the singing and being with friends."
Elijah Hanson, 13: "I like it because I get to know more people, and I like doing drama."
Jordan Bullard, 10: "I like how we all work together and pray to God."
Josh Sanders, 18: "It's a great place to come and be crazy."
Alysyn Dahl, 8: "I like that you get to have lots of fun and learn about drama."
Know & Go
'The Little Mermaid'
TIMES: 7:30 p.m. July 10-14, 2 p.m. July 14
WHERE: First United Methodist Church, 3101 Colusa Highway, Yuba City
COST: $8 and $10
The 15th anniversary year of the FCS Players Young People's Summer Theatre Program is "diving deep with God" under the direction of producer and artistic director Paul DeMeritt.
DeMeritt, who began the summer program in 1997 to provide an opportunity for his son, Matthew, to co-direct with him during his summer breaks from San Francisco State University, said, "The is a big celebration year for us. Not only is this the 15th anniversary of our summer program, it's the 20th anniversary of FCS Players."
Co-directed by DeMeritt, Katie Jones, Alex Cesena and Jessica Hoffart, the FCS Players will present Disney's "The Little Mermaid" on July 10-14.
"We are a small school that does big theater producations," DeMeritt said, adding that Music Theatre International in New York uses the FCS Players as a "test ground."
The FCS Players will perform DeMeritt's adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in the fall and "Fiddler on the Roof" in the spring, which DeMeritt said was the first major musical that the FCS Players did 20 years ago.
For DeMeritt, this year's summer program has several highlights. "I love the mentoring and discipleship experience for the staff and interns. And the kids have so much fun. It gives kids who have never been on stage a chance to spread their wings, and those who have experience to get to the next step," he said.
"It's fun to bring the Disney shows as a gift to our community. Our vision as a theater company is to be artists in service to the Yuba-Sutter community," DeMeritt said.
DeMeritt uses a vacation Bible school format in the summer theater program, which means he pairs a spiritual theme with the theme of the production. "Not all the kids have the same spiritual views, but it gives a good spiritually centered program in the summer," he said.
"We have a freedom here to teach children camaraderie and compassion as a Christ-centered program. We strive for excellence by teaching them they are part of something bigger than themselves. They see a product as a team that they can be proud of," said FCS Players musical director Jeff Poppinga.
"'The Little Mermaid' for me has everything: villians and victory and a storyline that keeps you right there. The music is captivating, and the story is one that makes you say, 'I wish I would have written it,'" Poppinga added.
Katie Jones, DeMeritt's daughter, has been involved in the summer program since she was 7 years old. "It's the best part of my year, getting to see a performance come together. It's magical, and the kids love it. That's the best part."
The program, which runs five weeks, starts at 9 a.m. with devotions, singing and warm-up. The students play games selected to reinforce theater-based skill sets, then break into groups that rotate throughout the morning to work on blocking, choreography, music and lines.
The program provides a snack and some special activities, such as a binder competition and birthday celebrations. At the end of the day, the students cool down and review notes.
The students, ages 7-18, will alternate performances in two casts. The red cast will perform July 10, 12 and at the July 14 matinee. The blue cast will perform July 11, 13 and at the July 14 evening show.
The casts include Charisma Ledesma and Georgia Genobaga as Ariel; Journey Granados and Nick Fortnas as Prince Eric; Evan Campbell and Alex Samay as King Triton; Brenna Campbell and Billie Smith as Ursula; Brenna Visaraga and Griffin Genobaga as Sebastian; Lily Long and Tess Scott as Flounder; and Lydia Crist and Olivia Hansel as Scuttle.
Rebecca Landreth, mother of Maddison Reister, 7, brought her daughter to the program after hearing about it at church in Colusa. "I like how it incorporates everything," Landreth said. "There is dancing and music, and she gets to meet other kids who are interested in the same thing she's interested in."
Technical director Aidan Greathouse, 17, has been involved in the summer theater program for nine years. "If kids like Disney, they should come and see the show. It's a whole lot of fun," he said.