If a resident wants an uplifting experience, plan to attend the Theatre Palisades Youth production of “Newsies, Jr.” which opens on Thursday and will run the next two weekends at the Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road.
Palisades residents had a sneak preview because the youth rode in the Palisades 4th of July parade and entertained people along the route with their exuberance and musical selections.
Forty-two youth actors in third through eighth grade will perform in different roles.
One parent said that they love TPY’s director Lara Ganz because she double and triple cast roles, which means “more actors get opportunities they might not get elsewhere because she wants everyone to shine.”
“Newsies” is based on the Newsboys strike of 1899 in New York City. Orphans and street kids sold the New York Journal and the New York World. Called newsies, they went on strike on July 20 against Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst and other publishers who tried to take more than their fair share of the kids’ earnings.
The children’s working conditions were terrible. They were on their feet all day walking city streets. These children did not go to school because they were trying to sell papers on the streets, in brothels, or saloons – the newsies were not reimbursed for any papers left unsold.
When publishers wanted to raise the rates, a newsie leader, Dave Simons, convinced the kids to strike. That action also brought to light the impact of child labor and the poor working conditions.
Director Ganz said, “It is a musical that depicts children bravely standing up for what’s right and ACTUALLY effecting change.
“Our young TPY actors have shown great vulnerability and courage while preparing for this production,” she said. “I have been humbled by the children’s commitment and overcome with emotion while witnessing this AWESOME cast pouring their literal blood, sweat and tears into every rehearsal.
“Our rehearsals included many long, hot days in the sun, bee stings, butterflies, French fries and chocolate shakes from Garden Cafe, band-aids, dance-offs, two lost teeth, fairy visits and ice packs. The cast even exercised what they learned from the musical and organized an actual ‘actors strike’ when I forgot to get their afternoon popsicles!
“Young actors would wander around, singing the rousing choruses of Alan Menken’s anthemic and urgent score,” Ganz said. “We would laugh at these moments, however, every once in a while, we would catch a glimpse of their understanding that this show is more than just a story about a newsboy strike, but that it reflects the world they exist in today.
“I think this was most profoundly experienced during our morning journaling,” Ganz said and noted, “An actress in our cast, Anna Rose Barker, an 8th grader and one of our Katherines, inspired all of us when she shared her spontaneous journal excerpt.”
Barker wrote: “To me, Resistance means fighting;
To me, Resistance means I stand tall and make my voice heard;
To me, Resistance means not letting men decide what I can and cannot do;
To me, Resistance means Katherine Pulitzer not letting power stop her from doing what is right;
To me, Resistance means a woman belongs everywhere a man is;
To me, Resistance means I know who I am.”
Ganz wrote, “the story of the newsies is a great inspiration to them and to us, to ‘stare down the odds and seize the day!’ We MUST stand up for what’s right and have faith that even the smallest and the youngest have, within their power, to change the world.”
Shows will be Thursday, July 14 and 21 at 7 p.m., July 15 and 22 at 7 p.m., July 16 and 23 at 2 and 5 p.m. and July 17 and 24 at 2 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit: theatrepalisades.org. General admission is $22, and seniors/students are $17.