Children prepare for Project P.L.A.Y.

The inaugural Downtown at Sundown concert featured local band HanaLena at Fire Station Park in May. (Submitted photo)
Staff Writer

The Starkville Community Theatre saw an impressive turnout for its annual children’s program, Project P.L.A.Y.

“This is the largest attendance year we’ve had,” Project P.L.A.Y. technical director Jonathan Reeves said. “We have close to 80 kids this year, and we’ve never had that many. We usually max around 40, so we doubled this year alone.”

Reeves said the first week of Project P.L.A.Y., which started at the beginning of June, was spent going over play ideas, writing, exercising and acting workshops, and by the second week there is a good idea of what the plays will be and when rehearsals start.

Reeves said all the plays are written based on the children in the program and their talents and interests.

Reeves said the third week was spent finalizing, rehearsing and working on set and costume design.

“Project P.L.A.Y. is a very exciting program because it is only four weeks long, and in the theatre world that’s not a lot of time to put on a show, but we do it anyway,” Reeves said. “So that’s very impressive for those kids.”

The children in Project P.L.A.Y. will perform their plays on the fourth week of the program at 7 p.m. nightly from June 25 through June 29 and at 2 p.m. June 30.

“The best term I’ve ever heard describe the process is ‘raw.’ When you have young actors, they have raw talent and they’re developing and exploring it,” Reeves said.

The performances are rough around the edges, Reeves said, but the talent and potential can be seen as the students continue to study and practice in theatre.

Each night, the children will perform around 10 short, five to 10 minute plays they created during the program.

Along with the high attendance in the program, Project P.L.A.Y., which is sponsored by Hurdle Law Firm and Starkville Pediatric Clinic, is partnering with Make-A-Wish Mississippi for the first time this year.

SCT Chief Administrative Officer Gabe Smith said SCT will be accepting donations specifically for Make-A-Wish leading up to the production dates of Project P.L.A.Y. and in the lobby at each performance, and local Make-A-Wish children and their families are being invited to a performance night. In addition to collected donations, SCT will be giving half of its overall profits from the show to Make-A-Wish.

“Make-A-Wish exists to try to grant wishes for children diagnosed with critical illnesses, and working toward that goal with Project P.L.A.Y., it’s all about kids helping kids and creating a bigger community than we ever could alone,” Smith said.