BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
Everyone wishes that they could escape every once in a while, to be somebody else, somewhere else. Acting allows for someone to do this, to take on the role and character of someone else, somewhere else. Lee Hall once said, “The point of theatre is transformation: to make an extraordinary event out of ordinary material right in front of an audience’s eyes.” The Junior Ouachita Little Theatre [JOLT] has been providing teens the opportunity to ‘be’ somewhere else, be a part of something extraordinary that brings laughter, and maybe most importantly, giving them a place to belong.
JOLT was started in 1996 with the desire to educate, equip, and give young actors a great experience. The JOLT is a separate entity of the Ouachita Little Theatre [OLT], but is supported by the ‘mother’ organization. “Seeing that there aren’t often many roles for young people to be in most of the plays, we wanted to give them a way to continue in theatre and continue learning for their future,” explains JOLT sponsor, Judy Kropp. The young theatre group is open for students 3rd grade through college, and it isn’t just for those aspiring to act. “I really believe that theatre is a team sport to the upmost. Everyone is important to the end production, and so even if somebody doesn’t want to act, they still have a part to play and JOLT is designed to educate students about what those opportunities may be,” says Kropp.
Team…the dictionary defines ‘team’ as a number of persons associated in some joint action. When most people think about team sports, their minds rush to basketball, football, soccer, or another sport with multiple individuals, but according to Kropp, theatre really is the ultimate team sport, “Nobody gets to sit out or not have a part in a production. I believe this really to be about being a team. Although everyone sees the actors, they don’t see those doing lights, sound, or the ones working with costumes in the back. If we aren’t all on the same page, the production is not what it could be.” In JOLT, Kropp wants to encourage students to come find their place on the team at the theatre and in the process they may just find their gift. “It’s been amazing to see how many young people ventured into theatre not knowing what they may be gifted in, but through the process really learned a lot about themselves,” Kropp says with a smile.
One of the primary reasons for creating JOLT was to educate young students about theatre in the hopes that they would learn more and as they grow older, they would have a place to showcase their gifts and talents. One of the ways that JOLT seeks to educate is through workshops every third Thursday at the theatre. “This is an opportunity to teach theatre skills, but as I said earlier, it’s not just for those that want to act. We bring in people to talk about costume design, props, and many other things in hopes that students can see where they may fit in.”
Kropp’s daughter and Mena High School Drama teacher, Jessica Kropp, is also involved helping train the young students. “Jessica will sometimes come over and help and bring some of her senior students who will help train our students,” explains Kropp. These workshops as well as time spent working towards a production is an opportunity to educate and equip. “The best way to think about JOLT is a vehicle to educate and provide opportunities to put on productions by young people.” The workshops usually last from 4-5:30p.m. and snacks are provided.
Like any other good team, JOLT is extremely diverse and welcomes any student to come participate in theatre, whether they are 8 or 18. “That is the neat thing about JOLT, with so many different roles in the play and so many needs for the production, we have room for students of all ages. It isn’t often that a third grader and high school senior can work together, but we feel like here they can,” explains Kropp smiling. The theatre provides a wonderful atmosphere that seeks to bring out the best in each individual and help them discover their gifts and talents. “Whether somebody is 10 years old or 18, they have gifts and abilities and we hope to help them find a place to belong among others and a place that they can use their gifts. Even when other things are gone, you can always be a part of theatre and we want to help students develop a love for theatre that will last as long as they want it to.”
JOLT is open to any student ages third grade and up and membership fees are only $10 a year. “For an opportunity to be a part of a couple of productions a year and learning the ins and outs of theatre, you can’t find a better deal. Plus, it’s all a lot of fun,” says Kropp smiling. To see the hard work of the JOLT and to measure someone’s interest in the group, check out their production of Tom Sawyer at the OLT July 14-16 and July 21-23, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday Matinee at 2:30 p.m. Tickets for the show are $8 for adults and $5 for students. Since JOLT is a separate organization from the OLT, OLT season passes will not be valid for the show. Scotty Jenkins and Alexa Night, two adult leaders, have been directing this show. The show is sure to be a favorite for families.