Acting not just child's play

Published May 6, 1992|Updated Oct. 11, 2005

Even at 8 years old, Hallie McGowan realizes that actors sometimes make a lot of money.

But that's not why she's taken to the stage.

"When I played the elf Walnut in Pinocchio, I got to be silly and mischievous," Hallie said. "I don't usually get to do that."

For Hallie and other children in Brandon, acting is a chance to live in a fantasy world _ with encouragement from grown-ups.

"We have very shy children come in here, and in no time they are interacting with all the members of the play," said Jim McCabe, artistic director and president of Village Players of Brandon. "Acting also increases a child's self-esteem."

McCabe, part owner of a Brandon video store, has been directing plays at the community theater for three years. He said children often watch television and imagine themselves involved in the action.

"Taking part in our productions gives kids a chance to act out some of these fantasies," he said.

The players group, which performs up to six plays or musicals a year, does not involve children in all of its performances. But "most of the time there are a number of parts for our young community members, and sometimes we put on children's shows."

McCabe, educated at the University of South Florida and the University of Miami, spent 25 years as a professional actor, then settled down in Brandon to be close to his family.

He said his use of child actors makes his volunteer job with the Players especially challenging. Children sometimes audition with stars in their eyes, but realize eventually how much hard work is involved.

"Being in a play is a big commitment for both child and parent," McCabe said. "Experience is not necessary, but the children need to be prepared to listen, cooperate and work hard."

McCabe said he tries to make the child's contribution as easy as possible. "During rehearsal, we start with the children's parts so they can finish early," he said.

"I know they still have to get up for school the next day. It gets more difficult the last few dress rehearsals before a performance. Everyone in the play has to stay for the entire rehearsal, and this may mean working until 11 p.m. or midnight."

Long hours aside, McCabe said he believes the acting experience is good for children. For one thing, he said, it introduces them to classic literature.

"In the past, I have rewritten Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet using modern songs and dialogue to make it easy and fun for kids to follow," he said. "I hope to be doing more of that here."

To learn more

For more information about Village Players, both adults and children can reach Jim McCabe at 685-1664.