Kent Trumbull Summer Stock presents season of plays

Rebecca Odell

As students at Kent State Trumbull clear the hallways and pile out of the classrooms after a long day of summer classes, the stage lights are beginning to warm up down the hall at Kent Trumbull Theatre.

Elementary school students, college students and Mahoning Valley community members have the opportunity to practice their acting skills during Summer Stock, Kent Trumbull Theatre’s season of plays.

Kent Trumbull Theatre has presented plays to the community during the summer for the past 31 years, said Daniel Nadon, artistic director of Summer Stock.

“It is a partnership with K-12, community and students,” Nadon said. “It allows the community to create a family-friendly theater environment and season of plays for all ages.”

The theater will perform three plays this summer. “The Emperor’s New Clothes” ended June 27, and “The Emperor’s Nightingale” and “Seussical” will debut in July.

High school students who do not want to act but wish to learn more about scenic design, lighting and costume design can intern with the theater and work behind the scenes for Summer Stock. Nadon said nine students are interning this summer, and each will receive a $500 internship scholarship at the end of the season.

“Students can do this at the collegiate level and have some fun,” Nadon said.

In addition to performing or interning, Nadon said acting classes are available to the children in the community to give them an opportunity to learn the art.

Jeff Butts, a 2007 Kent State alumnus, will direct “The Emperor’s Nightingale” this summer. The play is based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, and the storyline deals with a Chinese emperor who has never really grown up inside, Butts said.

The cast members in “The Emperor’s Nightingale” are mostly children and adolescents whose ages range from 7 to 17, Butts said.

Butts said acting and directing bring him a sense of joy that he wants to share with those who are new to or young in the art.

“The fact that (the play) deals so much with the problems of greed and selfishness and with finding joy inside yourself instead of in your belongings is the icing on the cake,” Butts said in an e-mail.

Breanna Naylor, a 13-year-old who will play the part of the understudy and the servant in “The Emperor’s Nightingale,” said she joined the cast because she loves to be on stage.

“The best part about acting is getting to meet new people and just being on stage and trying to improve my acting skills,” Breanna said.

Joe Toto, junior English and justice studies major, said playing Cat in the Hat in “Seussical” gives him the opportunity to create new characters and personalities. Toto said he even gets to do an Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation in the play.

Toto said the large amount of musicality in the play made him nervous, as he was not sure if his cast members would be able to sing well.

“When I came to the first rehearsal, I was afraid it was going to be a bad high school musical,” Toto said.

However, Toto’s fellow cast members proved him wrong, and Toto said he is excited to be a part of the play’s opening in July.

“These people can sing,” Toto said. “All my fears have been cast to the side.”

Summer Stock cast members performed “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and will perform “Seussical” at Kent Trumbull Theatre, but “The Emperor’s Nightingale” will travel to several public libraries, day cares and other locations throughout Northeast Ohio to perform in July.

“I’ve got a fantastic cast of actors who are eager to do a great job when we go on tour,” Butts said.

For Toto, acting in Summer Stock is a family event. His 10-year-old son, Vincent Toto, plays two roles in “Seussical.”

While he is related to one of the other cast members, Toto said the best part of Summer Stock is the sense of family that the cast members create among each other. Many of the actors in the plays have performed in Summer Stock before and keep coming back each year.

“When you come in, you become part of the family,” Toto said.

Contact regional campuses reporter Rebecca Odell at [email protected].