Kara Strohm likes portraying a wild character like Ariel from “Footloose” because she’s nothing like her.
“She’s a lot different from my personal lifestyle,” Strohm, 16, of Sycamore, said. “She’s a lot more out there than me. It makes me put myself out there.”
Strohm will play Ariel in the Children’s Community Theatre’s production of “Footloose” Friday through Sunday. She’s one of 43 teenagers who, in the course of two weeks, auditioned, rehearsed, and will put on a full-scale production to teach participants more about the theater experience. The camp has been held at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sycamore.
“Footloose” is a musical that tells the story of high schoolers who experience their small town banning dancing and rock music.
Director Jeff Hall said the two-week camp is intensive for the participants, but they enjoy it because for most of them, theater is truly what they enjoy.
“It’s in depth, intense and there’s no downtime,” said Bryan Fowler, 17, of Genoa, who plays the main character Ren McCormick. “But I’m ecstatic to be able to play this part.”
Fowler made a friendly bet with his girlfriend, who also attends the camp.
“We bet each other five bucks to see who would get a higher part in the show,” Fowler said. “She bet that I would get the higher part so I had to give her five bucks.”
Camp coordinator Julie Breidenbach said the advanced camp covers a lot of ground in two weeks.
“Most of our campers are repeat campers,” Breidenbach said. “We have high expectations and we don’t lower our expectations. It’s amazing and [the show] always comes together.”
Hall, who is a theater grad from Millikin University, said he wants to use his theater experience to fuel excitement for the performers. He said some of the performers have talked to him about theater possibilities in college and beyond.
Hall has directed shows for Stage Coach Players in DeKalb, but working with teenagers has been a new experience for him. He said it’s important to never underestimate the willpower of kids, because they are willing to take on challenges.
“There’s been a lot of changing plans,” Hall said. “You have to learn to be flexible. But all these kids are so talented, and if I could give 43 leads [in the show,] I would.”
Grant VanLanduyt, 15, of Hinckley, auditioned for an ensemble role but was chosen to play Willard, Ren’s best friend.
“It’s fun to play a hillbilly,” VanLanduyt said. “I’m good at Southern accents. It’s fun to make a fool of myself. You can’t be shy.”
Merri Bork, 15, of Sycamore, thinks the role of Rusty, Ariel’s best friend, is the perfect role for her.
“I like playing best friends and annoying characters,” Bork said. “Main roles are boring to play. I auditioned for the role of Rusty and I was so excited to get it.”
Bork said the day the casting was announced, she had her dad continually refresh the Internet page. When she found out she was cast as Rusty, she kissed both of her parents on the cheek and ran to call her best friend.
“It’s fun memorizing lines and learning the dance moves,” Bork said. “Because we do this in two weeks we become friends faster. Our cast is like a family.”
Hall encourages attendance at the weekend’s shows to support the actors’ efforts.
“This show is something this community has not seen before,” Hall said. “It will be really worth it to see the production. It’s been less than two weeks from auditions and rehearsals, so come out and see what our kids can do.”
If you go
WHAT: CCT's production of "Footloose"
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Sycamore High School, 555 Spartan Trail, Sycamore
TICKETS: $10, adults; $5, children; available at the door