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Two Kutztown girls are performing in principal roles in The Allentown Civic Theatre’s 23rd annual “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, this month.
While Sora, 8, and Aiyana Debello, 10, have been participating in this Christmas tradition since age 5 and 7, this is the first year they are portraying principal characters. Aiyana is portraying Beth Fezziwig and Sora is playing the second youngest Fezziwig, Bertie. In previous years they acted in support roles.
“The difference really means they have to be at all rehearsals and they grow a closer bond with some of the other cast members,” said their mother, Becky Weller. “Next year, they could audition and be support roles again, it’s all about the process and the experience and just being part of the theatre family.”
Becky said that the director, Bill Sanders, is most supportive and appreciates professionalism from everyone, parents included.
“That in mind, humility is always a good trait and their roles are not much different than previous years, but they are a part of the family that was integral to the main character, Scrooge, and the whole story line for ‘A Christmas Carol,’” said Becky.
Aiyana, a 5th grader at Seven Generations Charter School in Emmaus, likes that the show is set in Victorian times.
“I get to talk with a fancy accent. I get to wear fancy dresses,” said Aiyana. “I get a challenge. I have to act like the other actors are my family members, my sisters and parents and I have to make that convincing to the audience.”
Her sister Sora, a home schooled 3rd grader, likes that her character is a Fezziwig and “she was one of the ones that throws the party and she gets to stay up late. I like to stay up late, it’s fun.”
Aiyana noted that these are principal roles, which requires they attend every single rehearsal that sometimes run until 11 at night.
“The girls are really committed to the show and are rehearsing long hours,” said Becky.
Some rehearsals on weekends have run from noon until 11 p.m.
“It’s a big ask but it’s a big pay off to be involved in such an experience,” said Becky. “All of the cast and crew are supportive of the children in the show and each other. They want to audition every year since they started in 2009. They make me proud. They are growing from this wonderful experience yet they remain very secure in their own identity and are still normal little 8- and 10-year-old girls.”
Aiyana has been acting at the Civic Theatre for four years and has been going to theatre classes for three.
“I get to be a whole new person. I get to use my creativity and I can make myself different every time and I am not the same person that I usually am,” said Aiyana. “I am someone entirely different.”
Sora started acting at age 4.
“I had stage fright when I first started but when I kept on getting on stage, I started feeling like I really wanted to be on the stage,” said Sora. “You get to play a lot sometimes and I just like acting and what is mainly what you do on the stage, you act.”
Aiyana enjoys acting with different people and interacting with them off stage, so when on stage, “I have a better relationship with them and I know what relationship I have with that character on stage.”
Becky loves that her daughters meet actors, stage managers, costume designers, playwriters and directors from all over the country, some from Broadway.
“They work with people in the theatre from all age groups and get a great perspective and appreciation for these people as human beings first and foremost and for masters of their craft,” said Becky.
They are also meeting and working with people who are developing their craft and there is a tremendous amount of support for each other, she said.
“My girls ‘get the bigger picture’ and they get to have fun rehearsing and performing. They are out there meeting all kinds of wonderful people who have onto themselves a wealth of experience. They also get to meet people just like themselves, children younger, the same age, older and some adults who are still learning the theatre,” Becky said. “They see the nervousness, the mistakes, the triumphs, the laughs and the end result is a gift that they just wouldn’t get if they did not experience it themselves.”
Aiyana said she has learned from her theater experiences.
“I have learned how to improvise and how to make myself seem something entirely different like a doctor or a teacher,” Aiyana said.
Sometimes in theatre classes, Aiyana said she must make it convincing that she and the other actors are in a different setting, in a different time and “we have to make it convincing like it’s a bully and a child or a student and a teacher and sometimes the President of the U.S. and a homeless person interacting with each other.”
Sora learned how to project her voice when on stage “so I am not really quiet and nobody can hear me.”
“I learned about how to make my voice sound better like if I am trying to be excited I learned how to sound excited and if I am sad I learned how to act and sound sad even if it’s not somebody in my family,” said Sora.
“I have seen children enjoy acting, becoming comfortable in role playing in small groups,” said Becky. “I have seen them grow into more confident individuals and their self-esteem blossoming.”
That led her to co-author books about teaching drama skills and then into classes for children.
“Naturally, my children were interested in ‘what mom was doing’ so they came a long and had fun in my drama classes.”
Becky also took them to live theatre productions abroad and in the local area, giving them a perspective from the audience as well as on stage.
“They have grown to appreciate what it takes to be on stage, behind stage, and to make an entire production come into fruition,” said Becky.
To receive principal roles in the show means that their schedules become rigorously intensive compared to other years and complements a lot of their other activities with their education, violin and guitar lessons, dance lessons and dance team lessons as well as competitions, swim instruction from USA accredited swim instructors, and just being normal ‘kids,’ said Becky.
“I am so very proud of my daughters and we are all so very humbled to be involved with the Allentown Civic Theatre because it is an experience that is positive in nature, increases their self-esteem and gives them a snapshot of what it is like to work with a diverse group of community members to create a polished and professional seasonal production.”
A Christmas Carol opened at The Allentown Civic Theatre Nov. 30 and continues to Dec. 15. This year is Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.
For more information visit www.civictheatre.com.