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‘Beauty and the Beast’ an ‘education in entertainment’ for students

Mikayla Holmes, Ellie Graham, Emi Verhar, Nicholas Parker, Josie Lawrence, Alex Ross, Sarah Gass, and Mikayla Patel practice their kick lines during theater rehearsals for HATT’s “Beauty and the Beast Junior.”

By Jodi Hersey

Special to The Weekly

School may be out for the summer, but that hasn’t stopped the students from the Hampden Area Theatre Troupe (or HATT) from learning all things theater related during rehearsals for their upcoming production of “Beauty and the Beast Junior.”

The members of HATT, all students from RSU 22, didn’t just memorize lines and choreography for their upcoming shows, but also were in charge of set design, costumes, makeup and lighting.

“I think there are a lot of options for kids in the area to just act and be in front of the stage, but a lot of things happen behind the scenes,” explained Rob Kissinger, director of HATT.

“When we formed HATT three years ago, we wanted to include students as much as we could. So the kids are encouraged to come in during the day and help out with building the set, working on costumes and hanging curtains or lights. Then we have our big paint day when they put everything together,” he added.

At night, the students return to Hampden Academy to run through their lines and practice choreography. Mikayla Burridge, one of HATT’s first members, is now the group’s official choreographer.

“This year’s choreography has been a bit more complicated. We’ve broken out the elementary level jazz squares so the Gaston song will have some mug clinking, and there’s a lot of kick lines and things they haven’t done [before] like learning the waltz,” explained Burridge.

It’s been an education in entertainment that actor Aidan Babbitt, a junior at Hampden Academy, has enjoyed soaking up.

“I really, really like acting and music. It’s what I want to do with my life. So spending my summer doing this is exactly what I want my summer to be,” he said.

Babbitt is playing the role of Gaston in this year’s production. Gaston is the handsome but arrogant hunter who is determined to marry the main character, Belle, at any cost.

“Getting into character has been pretty easy because I often play these selfish, arrogant characters in most shows I do. It’s really fun,” explained Babbitt.

Being in front of an audience can be nerve-racking or even downright frightening for some students. But Kissinger doesn’t believe that should keep kids away from the art of theatre.

“It’s nice the kids get to come in at whatever level they’re comfortable with,” said Kissinger. “I think there are a lot of kids intimidated about being in front. One of our actresses, who is playing Mrs. Potts, was very intimidated her first year. She came in just to do artwork. We talked her into being in the ensemble and now she’s singing one of the lead roles.”

HATT’s “Beauty and the Beast Junior” will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 13 – Saturday, July 15 at Hampden Academy. Tickets are $5 per person.

“We’ve been on a Disney theme the last couple of years,” Kissinger said. “We like to get things that will be new and unexpected for the audience, but things the audience is going to enjoy seeing.”

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/HampdenAreaTheatreTroupe/.

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