gmhTODAY 25 gmhTODAY April May 2019 - Page 96

Matthew Russell Hendrickson THEATER scene Matthew has been involved with community theater for over 35 years. He is currently a designer’s assistant for Brotin Design, a founding member of a local film production company, Oscar Dante Motion, and is still heavily involved with local theater. Meet O ne of the theater genres that flies under the ‘publicity radar’ is children’s theater. Even in some places where both community and professional theater are well publi- cized, children’s theater performances are sometimes relegated to the back pages. I grew up in both children’s theater and the regular theater. The only way we can fill adult theater groups with actors is to start by giving children an outlet to discover the magic of theater. One local group is trying to do just that. Little Theater Productions (LTP), spearheaded by Hillary Little, is one of the local companies that decided to focus on giving children the opportunity to explore the creative outlet of stage performance. Hillary grew up and attended high school here in Gilroy. LTP offers inspirational and educational theatre opportunities for local youth 6-17 years old. They work with experienced performers as well as those who are new to theater and just getting their feet wet. It’s a real joy to watch the less confident kids come out of their shells, make new friends and explore the many rewarding life skills that come from involvement in the arts. 96 LTP works primarily with the City of Gilroy Recreation Department. According to Little, “I was contacted by the city to direct ‘Honk, Jr.,’ with them back in 2015. Since then we’ve produced ‘Beauty and the Beast, Jr.’ (2016), ‘The Lion King, Jr.’ (2017), ‘Oliver!’ (2018), and ‘Grease: School Version’ (2018). We are now rehearsing our sixth production, ‘Mary Poppins, Jr.,’ which debuts at Gilroy High School this April.” In 1987, Hillary had her first experience on stage in ‘Aladdin McFaddin,’ a different version of the Aladdin story we all know so well today. She was directed by her good friend, Carol Harris, on the very same Gilroy High School stage. Her motivation to get involved in theater came from her mother, Morgan Hill-based professional photographer Rebecca Little, who is also involved in the local theater and arts scene. Hillary grew up performing with South County groups including South Valley Civic Theater, Children’s Musical Theater San Jose, and Lana’s Dance Studio. During her time at Gilroy High School, she sang with the Chamber Singers and toured Japan during her senior year. As an adult she began performing professionally with GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN april/may 2019 groups such as American Musical Theater San Jose, Cabrillo Stage, Symphony Silicon Valley, The Retro Dome, and Beach Blanket Babylon. All of which put her on a direct course to share her love of the theater craft with the young members of our community. For Hillary, children’s theatre is a uniquely multifaceted outlet that allows the more outgoing child to shine and provides opportunities for the more reserved child to play outside of their comfort zone. Theater builds character, develops social skills, encourages teamwork and focus, gives us a sense of purpose, and puts us in touch with our emotions. It’s one of Hillary’s deepest loves, and she believes every community can benefit from what theater offers for not only the actors but also the audience and everyone involved in the production. “It is very rewarding to notice progress and growth in my students. Not only do they show improvement in their artistic talents, controlled breathing, precise diction, correct pitch, appropriate volume, etcetera, but they also grow emotionally.” Little Theater Productions is one of several local children’s theater groups. THEATER Hillary Little