By Andrea Urban
Entirely East Lansing
All-of-us Express Children’s Theatre in East Lansing puts on performances every season and this spring it is “The House at Pooh Corner.”
“The House at Pooh Corner” is like “Winnie the Pooh” part two, according to Artistic Director Sarah Willis.
“This time we have Tigger involved, Christopher Robin’s mother is threatening to send him off to ‘education’ and he is terrified by what this ‘education’ thing is so he tries to run away,” said Willis.
Auditions took place at the end of January for youth ages 9 to 18 years old. The cast chosen then rehearses for seven weeks before the spring performance in April. The play will be performed at Riverwalk Theatre in Lansing.
“I was 7 when I started working and performing with All-of-us Express, I grew up in Okemos. I love this theatre; it was a great experience to be apart of while growing up, like a family outside of my own home,” said Willis.
11-year-old Abby Murray of Okemos is cast as Tigger and agrees with Willis. “I love this place because everyone is friendly. It’s like my second family,” said Murray.
All-of-us Express Children’s Theatre has a guild program for the youth who are a part of the backstage crew. The guild program is stages of lessons where the crew members can earn badges for completing tasks, they start from apprentice and end at master badge.
“When I was a part of crew, I did learn important lessons about what goes on backstage, but I like acting more,” said 13-year-old Ayden Soupal of Holt, who plays Winnie the Pooh in the play.
“I love this company, I love directing, and I love working with kids. The whole experience is really rewarding. Watching the youth grow is inspiring and you can really see how hard they work,” said Lansing local and director Liz Parker.
The theater has open auditions. The youth do not try out for a specific role because it is about the director’s vision and where they see a fit. The youth are from all over the greater-Lansing area, but the theater is based in East Lansing.
“I was pretty shocked when I was cast as Winnie the Pooh. I love transforming myself when acting. I am not the most outgoing person in the real world but when I act, I switch, and it’s kind of like an outlet,” said Soupal.
“It nice to be apart of something that has a product at the end and is fun all the way through. It is a nice balance between something professional and acting in a school play,” said 14-year-old assistant director Ellison Winterstein.
According to Parker and Willis, the goal of All-of-us Express Theatre is to teach the youth professionalism, build their confidence and skills and produce leaders.
“The House at Pooh Corner” will be performed two weekends in April, the 10-12 and the 17-19, at the Riverwalk Theatre in Lansing. You can purchase tickets at the Riverwalk Theatre or on their website, www.riverwalktheatre.com.