Sitting around the breakfast table with a few of the stars of “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” — Theatre Aspen’s third of four summer main stage productions — wasn’t much different than many of the other interviews I’ve had with actors over the years.
I arrived a few minutes late to find the four of them already seated, one perusing the menu while the others were casually chatting, perhaps about the day or, more likely, about the premiere performance of their show taking place later that evening. We all exchanged pleasantries, ordered our food then got down to business.
Terms like blocking (referring to the precise movement and positioning of actors on a stage), the Meisner method (an acting technique) and run length (how many weeks a given show will be performed) were quickly thrown around. Which was all completely appropriate for a conversation with a group of actors.
But then, this was no ordinary group of actors. The six cast members for “3 Little Pigs” — Chris Carson, Flynn Holman, Zoe Levine, Lindsay Nelson, Kidd-Duhe Solomon and Luke Seamans — are all teenagers. And just recently teenagers, for that matter. Most of them are matriculating freshmen or sophomores at Aspen High, though the length of their acting resumes certainly appear to belie their age. They’ve performed in school plays, with Aspen Community Theatre, Jayne Gottlieb Productions, Theatre Aspen and other companies.
This isn’t the first time that students have appeared on stage at the Alex Kaufman Theatre as part of one of the troupe’s professional performances — most recently it occurred for the complex amalgamation of Dr. Seuss stories in “Seussical” — but this is the first time that one of the show’s casts has been entirely comprised of the under-age set.
“After I saw ‘13’ (a student show put on by Theatre Aspen last year) I knew that we had enough talented kids to put on a professional show,” says Paige Price, Theatre Aspen’s artistic director. “And they’ve really impressed me. All of these kids have been in one of our programs, and I thought this would be a really great goal for all of the other students.”
“3 Little Pigs” is being marketed as this summer’s Theatre Aspen play for kids. But as any adult who’s ever seen “Shrek” or read books from the “Harry Potter” series knows, there’s always plenty of-age joy to be found in children’s tales. The musical play is a retelling of the classic children’s story where truth-hungry reporter Nancy McGill (played with nuance by Lindsay Nelson) is chasing the real story of what happened on that fateful day when the supposedly big, bad wolf huffed, puffed and blew two houses down.
Levine astutely portrays prosecuting attorney Julia while Holman is charged with the task of presiding over the case for the wolf’s life as the Honorable Judge Juris Prudence.
“This is the first professional show I’ve ever done,” Levine says, who cut her teeth writing and performing plays in her parents’ driveway with neighbor Luke Seamans. “It’s really great to get a taste of what it’s like to do a professional show that runs for more than a month. In the past, you work so hard for two or three shows and you’re done. But we really get to enjoy this.”
Several of the actors said that they’ve been in the spotlight performing on stage since they were very young. From Seamans being asked by his neighbor Levine to audition for “Grease,” Nelson getting involved with a play called the “Rhythm of Life” at age 6, Levine being enthralled by the performance aspect of Jazz Aspen Snowmass shows as a kid, or Solomon falling in love with Disney movies as a child, they’ve all developed passions that have endured far beyond the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“We still do high school shows, we do Theatre Aspen … any theater opportunity in the valley we try to do it because it just makes us better,” says Levine. “And they’re fun.”
But, they all agree, performing in a Theatre Aspen show is qualitatively different from many of the other shows they’ve been in.
“It’s not like theater camp where you pay them to teach you,” Solomon says. “They’re paying you to put on a good show. So you can’t really suck.”
“The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs” opened on Thursday, and runs through Aug. 13. The fast-paced musical “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” filled with iconic ‘50s and ‘60s pop hits runs through Aug. 21. On Friday, July 16, “Same Time, Next Year” opens. The Tony Award-winning romantic comedy directed by Jay Sandrich follows a couple who meet once a year for 25 years. It runs through Aug. 19. And on Sunday, Aug. 22, Theatre Aspen will revive “Defying Gravity” from earlier this summer. The show features songs from such Broadway hits as “Wicked,” “Les Miserables,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “The King and I,” and “42nd Street,” and stars locals Nikki Boxer, Jon Boxer, Peggy Burke, Ivan Cassar, Ed Foran, Nina Gabianelli, Carolyn Golbus, Maureen Jackson, Mike Monroney, Peggy Mundinger, Graham Northrup, Jane Robertson, Izzy Zaino and Jeannie Walla.