Cornerstone Youth Theatre performs Just So stories
by Laureen F. Guenther
Cornerstone Youth Theatre, for students age 6 to 18, will perform Just So, a musical based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, June 7 to 16 in Red Deer.
The writers of the musical took Kipling’s stories about how animals are the way they are, like how the elephant got his trunk, and why the rhino has saggy skin, and wove them into a single narrative, says Laura DeGraff, Cornerstone’s Assistant Artistic Director, who is directing the show. “It is Dr. Seuss and Jungle Book mixed together.”
“(The audience) will see bright colorful costumes and glitz and glitter and amazing visuals, but the script itself has a lot of that twisty word play that you’ll see in a Dr. Seuss story,” she says. “It’s just so cleverly written. … There’s all kinds of great jokes. … Clever lyrics. The music is super catchy and fun. … And there’s all kinds of unique characters.”
The Elephant’s Child is the protagonist. “He’s just curious and questioning things and wants to know the answer but also he wants to change the world in a positive way,” DeGraff says. “A lot of the theme is how he struggles with that and how he comes across adversity and people who aren’t as pure-hearted as he is. … It’s hilarity and heart.”
Cornerstone Youth Theatre, founded in 2009, is an after-school theatre, with the mission of “instilling confidence and character through theatre arts opportunities and education reflecting Christ in Judeo-Christian values.”
“It’s always more than the theatre,” says DeGraff. “The artistry is amazing and I love the theatre arts. But then there’s so many other good things that come through it. … It’s amazing the kinds of things that they can do to take into their futures. To me that’s the confidence and character part.”
Cornerstone offers theatre classes for students age 6 to 18. Students age 8 to 18 may audition for the shows Cornerstone produces three times a year. Some students have now been in as many as 20 performances, DeGraff said, but each show also includes students who are brand-new to the theatre world.
“You get this amazing mentorship that happens between the cast and the crew and all the different students who are a part of it,” DeGraff says. “Kids really become leaders to others (for) whom it’s their first experience.” Sixty-four Cornerstone students perform in Just So, and 17 are crew members, fulfilling roles from rehearsal secretary to lights to stage management to sound to ushering to front of house.
When a student is in a show, an adult from the family is also involved. “Our parents build sets, organize costumes. They sell refreshments at the show,” DeGraff says. “You can buy souvenirs. You can eat a hot dog and popcorn and all that stuff, and it’s because of our parents who are so creative and so dedicated. … It comes together to make this beautiful performance.”
“Come check out Just So,” she says. “It’s a great family-friendly production that everyone will enjoy. You’ll get to see some amazing theatre and witness some amazing kids.”
Just So will be performed in evening and matinee performances over two weekends, June 7 to 16 at New Life Fellowship Church, Kelloway Crescent, Red Deer. Get tickets and more information at cornerstoneyouththeatre.org at 403-986-2981 or at the door.