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IPFW and Youtheatre Come Together for ‘Oliver’

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Photo credit: Oliver | IPFW

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Written by: Communicator StaffFebruary 14, 2013

This week the Arts United Center will host the first collaboration Fort Wayne has seen between two theaters.

“Oliver,” a large scale production, will be performed by the IPFW Theatre Department and the Fort Wayne Youtheatre Feb. 8-17.

Leslie Hormann, Youtheatre executive director, tossed around the idea of directing “Oliver” with John O’Connell, IPFW Theatre chair, back in 2010 before she started working for the Youtheatre.

On a radio show Hormann hosted, John told her that he had always wanted to direct “Oliver.”

“And then I got the job with Youtheatre and I said, ‘Okay. We’re going to revisit this. Let’s do it,’” Hormann said on Arts Weekly.

With a team of nearly one hundred individuals, the “Oliver” crew undertook the massive move of transporting the set from the Williams Theatre and reassembling it at the Arts United Center this past weekend. To get an idea of the scale, the set is approximately twice the size of the Williams Theatre stage according to freshmen actors Eric Smead and Brady Schrock.

Sunday was a “beast” Hormann said referring to the fact that it was the first rehearsal for the cast that included the actual set, the small piece orchestra, lights, microphones, sound and monitors, coupled with the fact that the IPFW cast members are expected to be involved in costume sewing and set construction.

It’s a typical practice Smead and Schrock said. Theater professors in general want their students to get a feel for every aspect of theater in order to get them used to the routine work traveling professional actors face.

The costumes alone, totaling at 70, present a daunting task. Fortunately for the crew, five of the children actors’ families took home costumes to work on the sewing.

“That is something Youtheatre can bring to the table,” Hormann said. “We have a lot of great parents that volunteer.”

The crew also features members from the community participating in the production, including Robert Philips as Fagin.

Another aspect of the production which poses a challenge is scheduling O’Connell said. He recalled speaking with one of the children actors and realizing the rehearsals ran about the same time the kids were accustomed to going to bed. The two boys playing Oliver can only rehearse until about 8:30 or 9 p.m.

However, Hormann and O’Connell recognize an inherent advantage in having so many young aspiring actors working with the IPFW cast. “The older kids get this injection of raw energy and excitement that little kids just have,” Hormann said.

Seven of the 26 Youtheatre actors will perform five to six dance numbers, three of which are back-to-back.

“They’ve been so much fun,” Smead said. “They bring a different energy to the group.”