With a cast ranging in age from 5 to 14, Julia Jaster realizes she's going to have to take a few liberties with the script from Robert Louis Stevenson's classy story from 1863, "Treasure Island."
"We're doing the kids' version, which is obviously shorter than the whole book," said Jaster, a 2015 Schalmont High grad who is directing the Schenectady Theater for Children's production of "Treasure Island," Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction. "But you don't want to change too much of what Stevenson wrote. It still tells the tale of 'Treasure Island' and stays pretty close to what he wrote."
Jaster, who completed her second year at Schenectady County Community College in the spring and will be at SUNY-Delhi in the fall, has a cast of 10 children all coming off a two-week summer camp at the troupe's home inside the ViaPort Mall in Rotterdam.
"These are all new students that we haven't had before," said Jaster. "They're a great set of new kids, and most of them are around 10 or 11. We're going to have costumes, props a complete set. We're having fun."
"Treasure Island" is set in 1881 and tells the story of Jim Hawkins, a young boy who works for his parents at the Admiral Benbow Inn but desires to set sail in search of buried treasure.
Jaster said the theater experience for the children is more than just about performing.
"It's not just teaching them about the play," said Jaster, who also directed a production of "Treasure Island" for the Helderberg Theater Festival two years ago. "They also learn about other things that were going on at that time. They'll be reading stories about Blackbeard, and learning what the sailors had to drink and what life was like for them back then. There was no access to electricity, so the kids learn about gas lights and that whole lifestsyle."
Jaster has been working with the Schenectady Theater for Children for nearly six years now and also serves as the group's secretary. Along with putting on three productions a year with children playing the roles, the group also has small productions with adults that they take on the road to elementary schools. Claire Nolan is the president of the group, which was created back in 1967. It's first production ever was "Alice in Wonderland."
The troupe's traveling show this past school year was "Seasons," which had a cast of five adults.
"It was the story of how the seasons came to be, and we had five actors in the cast, playing the four seasons and Mother Nature," said Nolan. "It was a complete traveling production, and while we had a lot of interest from preschools with the show this year, we also took it to nursing homes and assisted living centers. We liked to say our audience ranged from 3 to 93."
The Schenectady Theater for Children also offers "The Great Mind Series," an offering of one-man or one-woman shows that bring to life an actual historic character from the past.
"'The Great Mind Series' is alive and well," said Nolan. "I played Georgia O'Keefe in July and actually performed a show up at Wiawaka in Lake George where she spent several months as a young college student. We also have Judy Lott who does a show about environmentalist Rachel Carson and Kyle Jenks who primarily performs as James Madison. Judy is also working on a show about Grandma Moses, and Kyle also has other historic figures that he does."
Before school starts again in the fall, Nolan says her group will be hosting another two-week summer camp for children ages 6-16 from Aug. 20-31. Cheryl Charbonneau is in charge of the camp, which runs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
WHAT: A production of the Schenectady Theater for Children
WHERE: Mabee Farm, 1100 Main St., Rotterdam Junction
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $8
MORE INFO: Visit www.schenectadytheaterforchildren.org