Desert Foothills Theater debuts “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. The seven-show run at Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center features a cast of 20, ranging in age from 8-18. To view more photos from the show go to facebook.com/thefoothills.focus.
Desert Foothills debuts season with Charlie Brown
He’s the lovable loser audiences can’t help but root for.
Desert Foothills Theater opens the 2011-2012 season at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center with its production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”.
Pinnacle High School junior Joseph Halverson plays the lead character, often called a blockhead, who is prone to landing flat on his back when attempting to show of his athletic prowess.
“I’m not good in sports either,” Halverson said. “We actually have a lot of similarities. I’m a nice guy too. He’s pessimistic, but he’s friendly and he always tries his best. I think that’s what draws the crowd to him.”
The 17-year-old, who has previously performed in Music Man and Midsummer Night’s Dream, said he relished the opportunity to play a little kid again.
“I heard about it last minute and ended up auditioning for the part in a Starbucks,”
he said. “That was a little strange, but it worked.”
Mason Reeves, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Explorer Middle School, said he was drawn to the show because of the music, particularly the tunes associated with his character, Schroeder.
“I play guitar instead of the piano, but I liked his character,” said Reeves, who acknowledged that beyond knowing the names of the characters, he really wasn’t all that familiar with Charles Schultz Peanuts cartoon strip prior to being cast in the show.
Reeves said he has some fun dialogue with a couple characters.
“Lucy is extremely annoying,” he said. “She’s mean to a lot of people, but she’s in love with Schroeder and I’m not interested. And then Sally and I, we pick at each other back and forth.”
Playing Sally is Devon Prokopek, a 16-year-old Pinnacle High School sophomore.
“I think it’s a hilarious show,” she said. “They’re little kids, but they have almost an adult’s mindset. It’s pretty unexpected how they talk.”
Prokopek thinks her character might even be the funniest in the cast.
“Sally is the stupid one of the bunch, but she has those random insightful moments of brilliance that leave the audience wondering how she came up with that,” she said. “I just love it.”
Despite being a teen, Prokopek said playing a little kid comes pretty easily.
“I actually was told I was skipping too much,” she admits. “I’m pretty bubbly and I guess a little childish. I’m just having so much fun.”
Prokopek said she has worked with director Mark Clement before and viewed that opportunity as a draw to performing in the show.
“He always has ideas, but he lets the actors figure out how they want to perform the character,” she said. “He doesn’t try to change you.”
Clement is making his directing debut with Desert Foothills Theater, but has directed “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” once before.
“The last time was with an adult cast,” he said. “The adult show was just the six main characters, but in doing the show with a children’s cast I wanted to work with an ensemble.”
Clement, who has a cast of 20 for the show, said the larger cast was helpful in creating the neighborhood feel he remembers in growing up in the ‘70s.
“Peanuts is a comic strip so it’s broken up into all these little vignettes, but I wanted it to feel like a neighborhood where you could wander down the street and one group would be riding their bikes and another would be playing sports and there were just a lot of kids outside having fun,” he said.
Clement said the biggest challenge with working with the youth cast is making sure they understand the dialogue.
“Charles Schultz uses a lot of adult vocabulary and has adult-like conversations in the cartoon,” he said. “So we’ve done a lot of discussion on interpreting the lines, because we need the kids to understand the humor. A lot of the dialogue is fairly cerebral, but these kids have done a great job. They’ve been very dedicated over the last eight weeks and I think we’re ready for an audience.”
The show’s run includes a total of eight performances. Along with Friday’s premiere, there will be 7:30 p.m. shows on Saturday, Nov. 4, and Nov. 5. Additionally matinee performances are set for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5 and Nov. 6.
Tickets for the show range from $12 - 15 for youth and from $16 – 20 for adults. Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center is located at 33606 N. 60th St. in Scottsdale. For information on the show call 480-488-1981, go to email@example.com or go to desertfoothillstheater.com.