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Young actors eager for Mainstage debut

Young actors in 'A Christmas Carol' are, front row, Ezekiel Mercado and Lainie Robertson, and second row, Clarke MacDonald, Kyra Hewitt, Riley Hewett, Lily Bates and James Dillon, with Dave Hart, YouTheatre artistic director and associate director of the Young actors in 'A Christmas Carol' are, front row, Ezekiel Mercado and Lainie Robertson, and second row, Clarke MacDonald, Kyra Hewitt, Riley Hewett, Lily Bates and James Dillon, with Dave Hart, YouTheatre artistic director and associate director of the

When they were cast for the Mainstage production of "A Christmas Carol," 23 young actors had no idea that the acting gig required study about 19th century England, standing around a bonfire and drinking tea like high-tone ladies.

"They've been working in it since September," YouTheatre Artistic Director Dave Hart was saying of his young charges, who had just been turned loose for a 5 o'clock dinner break during Saturday rehearsal.
"We auditioned and then they went into a class called show prep class," Hart says. "They had to go through learning research about the time period and had workshops with some of the professional actors like Preston Dyar and Kim Cozort and me, and had workshops on historical England — both upper crust and lower-crust England."
When the classic story by Charles Dickens opens on Thursday night, theater patrons will see the reliable characters they expect — the miserly Scrooge, Jacob Marley, the Cratchett family, the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future. But they'll also see more children than most productions of "A Christmas Carol" offer, a signal of a conscious move by the Playhouse to blend its two dual missions of theater education and audience entertainment.
"This is something that Flat Rock is trying to do more," Hart says. "They'll be doing more combined YouTheatre and Flat Rock Playhouse shows, adding more YouTheatre students to their productions."

'Amazing experience'


Besides nine professional actors and three rotating Tiny Tims — Landon Wells, Liam Teague and Oliver King — the show features the children in red and green casts, split up to cover each half of the 4½-week run.
Lainie Robertson, 16, says she feels lucky to be "working with professionals that have done this for years and getting to take in their advice, their knowledge of what they're doing."
"It's also just extremely enjoyable," adds James Dillon, a 16-year-old sophomore at Hendersonville High School. "You come back here and you get to work with professionals, you see how everything works and you understand it. It's an amazing experience. It's one that you can enjoy and you can really kind of grow in."
By the time the play closes, the young actors will have spent almost four months in show-prep, rehearsal and performing, the last three with professional actors under professional direction.
"It's an amazing opportunity, not just for this season but for me I think it will really help me go farther in the future," says Ezekial Mercado, a 13-year-old home-school student who adds that he aspires to a professional career.
All the preparation, repetition and rehearsal leaves the students with a sense that good theater demands hard work and commitment.
"You need to take it seriously," James said. "It's an amazing show and it's a really awesome experience."
Along with singing the same song and dancing the same dance over and over, the kids also endure a common occupational hazard: waiting to go on.
"I bring a lot of homework," Lainie says. "You really become like family with your cast members. You see the good, the bad and the ugly, and a lot of it is learning to trust everyone backstage. They're helping you with your costumes, helping you run stuff before you go on. You have to really have each other's backs. Otherwise the show can't function. It doesn't work."
On Saturday, the young actors said they were excited about opening night and hopeful that the audience will gain as much seeing the show as they gain performing it.
"All of us are excited to convey a classic story," Lanie said. "Generally everyone's familiar with this story but (the cast looks forward to) bringing it to a new light, refreshing people on what the meaning is and actually being able to touch someone and speak to them."

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Youth actors in the show are Landon Wells, Liam Teague and Oliver King, Tiny Tim; Lilly Bates, ensemble, beggar child; Sophia Vettori Bradshaw, ensemble, Christmas Past; Hannah Daniels, ensemble; James Dillon, ensemble; Kyra Hewitt, ensemble, Want; Riley Hewitt, ensemble, Ignorance; Samuel Hooper, ensemble; Samantha Kane, ensemble; Clarke MacDonald, Little Ebenezer, Edward; Ezekiel Mercado, ensemble; Ava Moss, Belinda, 3rd Fezziwig; Clancy Penny, Belinda, beggar child; Fezziwig; Samantha Penny, ensemble, Christmas Past; Hadin Robertson, ensemble; Lainie Robertson, ensemble, Fan; Chris Saucedo, ensemble; Joseph Sherer, ensemble; Joseph Sherer, ensemble; Andrew Starr, ensemble; Caroline Vogul, ensemble.

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Performances are 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $40, $25 for students with valid ID and $10 for children 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Playhouse box office at 828/693-0731, toll-free at 866/ 732-8008 or online at www.FlatRockPlayhouse.org.