Teens take over Civic Theatre in ‘Oklahoma’

Megan Tiller (Ado Annie) and Aaron Jacobs (Will Parker) in ‘Oklahoma’ on stage now at the Civic Theatre. (Submitted photo)

Megan Tiller (Ado Annie) and Aaron Jacobs (Will Parker) in ‘Oklahoma’ on stage now at the Civic Theatre. (Submitted photo)

By Heather Lusk

Every summer the participants of Civic Theatre’s Young Adult Program have the chance to learn about every aspect of the Theatre and then bring those lessons to life by putting on a musical production.

“The entire show is run by truly talented high school students under the supervision of professionals,” according to Kelly Smith, Young Adult Program (YAP) coordinator.

They can learn about costumes, set design, and even the orchestra, as high schoolers play in the pit next to professionals from the Indiana Wind Symphony.

YAP, open to students aged 14 – 18, consists of a seven-week summer program and year-round workshops to learn about various aspects of Theatre. The summer program allows the students the additional opportunity to put on a performance such as this year’s production of “Oklahoma.”

“It feels more like a professional show, like the feeling of a Beef and Boards or an actual Civic (Theatre) show,” said upcoming high school senior Nick Gehring, a first time participant in YAP who plays Curly. “It feels really exhilarating to be a part of this process.”

Gehring has been a part of many performances through school and summer stock but the West Clay resident has been impressed with the opportunities that YAP allows the young actors and crew. “We get the exact same experience that some of these professionals would get,” he said. “It’s so cleanly run, they’ve thought out every aspect of it.”

Summer workshop topics vary from combat training to playing different ages on the stage to life in New York City and are open to any eligible students, with roughly sixty percent each summer also participating in the musical.

Smith started YAP when Civic was an art museum. Then around 1999 she left the program to focus on her family. Four years ago she was asked to resurrect YAP at its new location in Carmel.

“Indianapolis in an incredible Theatre community,” she said. She’s able to bring local professionals from a variety of fields to lead the workshops.

YAP draws students from all over Central Indiana, including Brownsburg, Danville, Pendleton and Westfield, with two of the leads for this year’s production of “Oklahoma” being from Zionsville and Carmel.

Megan Tiller, an upcoming ZCHS senior who portrays Ado Annie, has been involved with Civic Theatre for the past four years. She has discovered the value that Theatre can provide beyond just being on stage.

“It helps you learn things about yourself that you didn’t know, and gives you the confidence to give interviews and express your talent in different ways,” she said. “Civic has helped me grow and become a young woman more than any other program.”

The opportunity to transport an audience is one of her favorite things about being a part of the Theatre. “You get to take them away for that time and let them be drifted off into a different world that you have created,” she said.

Mary Culp, an upcoming ZCHS junior has enjoyed the entire learning experience. “They set the bar so high that you rise to it,” she said. This is her first year with YAP, and she has found it challenging in a positive way. “It gets tough to be there for so long, but you like being there for hours on end,” she said.

“There’s something to be said about performing with a group of people who you’ve become so close with and how you admire so much,” said Culp.

Smith is confident in the future of YAP. “The interest is there, the kids have fun, so I think it will last.”

For tickets to Oklahoma, contact the Civic Theatre box office at 843-3800. The show runs from July 23-26.

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