SKIT Cinderella Gala helps kids make dreams come true

Though most kids today don’t have evil stepmothers forcing them to sleep in fireplaces like Cinderella did, the challenges of youth are many.

With its youth theater program, Southern Kids in Theatre (SKIT) is helping kids gain confidence and self-esteem as well as develop concrete skills like public speaking, acting, singing and dancing, says director Debra Lonsdale.

In celebration of its upcoming performance of Rogers and Hammersteins Cinderella, SKIT is holding a Cinderella Gala, featuring a medley from past performances by the cast and buffet-style catering from Miss Lily’s. Each ticket to the gala ($45) admits the buyer to the gala, plus a free seat at the gala for a child under age 10 and one free ticket to the opening performance of Cinderella on Friday, June 12.

SKIT is a performing arts school with classes in acting, singing and dancing as well as improvisation, monologue training, and audition preparation. The money raised will not only help fund future events, but will provide scholarships for students to study at the school and participate in performances like Cinderella.

Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a musical theater classic and a staple for youth and community theater programs, but SKITs director Debra Lonsdale is confidant that she can bring a fresh perspective.

“Our version is a little more non-traditional -- very bright, very whimsical, very harlequin,” she says. “It’s nothing like Disney. The cast ranges in age from 8 to 18, supplemented by two adult actors. There are 2 full casts, so that as many SKIT students as possible are able to have some time in the spotlight.”

In addition to the new aesthetic approach, Lonsdale has made some unorthodox casting choices intended to create an atmosphere of humor and whimsy. Male actors play two of the female roles, those of the stepmother and one of the stepsisters. Seeing a male in a dress highlights the clumsiness is really going to make it different, Lonsdale said. “We tried to make it as funny as we could.”

A lifetime of experience in the performing arts and three years of directing with SKIT have given Lonsdale her own sense of showmanship. She has drawn on the fanciful feeling of The Wizard of Oz, her favorite musical to perform, to create the costumes, set design and general mood of Cinderella. She also embraces the unpredictability of stage performance, particularly when it comes to comedy. In rehearsal, the antics of Cinderella’s stepsisters have taken on a life of their own. “Every show you see will be a different show,” Lonsdale said.

The Cinderella Gala will be held on Thursday, June 11, at 7 p.m. at the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the Pellissippi State Hardin Valley Campus in Knoxville. Tickets cost $45. Reservations must be made on or before June 5, though a small number of seats may be available after that time.

For tickets or more information about the Gala or any of the performances of Cinderella, or about SKIT programs, call Debra Lonsdale at 865-621-0216.

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