Fisher Stewart, a freshman at Olathe Northwest, had no difficulty relating to the problems confronting his character, Evan Goldman, in the Spinning Tree Theatre’s production of “13.”
Goldman, 13, was uprooted from his fast-paced school in New York when his parents divorced and he and his mother moved to a little Indiana town. He was a stranger in a small school searching for new friends.
“I went through a similar experience though mine wasn’t as traumatic as Evan’s,” Fisher said. “I was home-schooled until I was 14 and enrolled at Northwest as a freshman. Like Evan I was looking for new friends and trying to find a group I fit into.”
The cast of “13” is made up of 19 Kansas City area teenagers and follows a plot that rekindles old memories of the funny and sometime tumultuous times that teenagers go through.
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The show is directed by Michael Grayman and Andrew Parkhurst, who, after a theater career in New York City, moved to Kansas City and co-founded Spinning Tree Theatre, a professional theater company. It opens Thursday and runs through Feb. 18 in the Just Off Broadway Theatre, 3051 Penn Valley Drive, Kansas City.
“The show deals candidly with teenage life today told against a rockin’ Broadway musical score by Jason Robert Brown,” Grayman said. “Kansas City has more than its share of young talent and we’re proud to feature 19 of our brightest stars to be.”
Fisher has been in theater since he was 9. He’s performed in several Kansas City area venues including The Coterie, Musical Theatre Heritage and Spinning Tree.
“I’m really excited about playing Evan, it’s a great role for me. I like the professionalism at Spinning Tree. The directors work with you and help you define your character,” Fisher said. “It’s challenging.”
Allison Banks, a sophomore at Lee’s Summit North, portrays Patrice, the first student Evan meets at his new school. They become good friends and Patrice gets a crush on him. “I love the character I’m playing,” Allison said.
“Patrice isn’t afraid to be herself. She doesn’t feel like she has to conform to a special group. I like to be that way myself, not too concerned with trying to fit in,” Allison said. “I think the show’s real cool for people of all ages.”
Allison was in “A Little Night Music” at Spinning Tree in 2014 and has performed in shows at The Coterie, Kansas City Repertory and Starlight Theatre. “I enjoy working in professional theater. The directors are great. It’s almost like having private acting lessons,” she said.
Devyn Trondson, a freshman at Shawnee Mission Northwest, also has been active in professional theater, including Kansas City Repertory, New Theatre and Spinning Tree Theatre. She played young Violet in “Violet” at Spinning Tree last year. She plays Lucy in “13.”
“I like Lucy,” Devyn said. “She can be funny but also kind of hateful, sort of your stereotypical mean girl. I’m not mean myself but it’s fun to act mean and deceitful. Lucy tries to get Brett, the school’s football star, to break up with his girlfriend so she can date him. She’s cool.”
Eddie, played by Jake Bartley, a sophomore at Olathe Northwest, is one of Brett’s tagalongs. “Eddie wants to be like Brett, but sometimes speaks before he thinks,” Jake said. “He’s really not a bad kid. He’s just like a lot of middle schoolers trying to find friends and be part of a group.”
Brett is played by Jared Berlin, a sophomore at Shawnee Mission Northwest. He and Kendra, the school’s most popular girl, are an off-and-on couple. Kendra is portrayed by Libby Terril, a junior at St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City.
Joshua Holloway, an eighth-grader at Trailridge Middle School in Shawnee Mission, plays Archie, Patrice’s best friend. Archie has muscular dystrophy and walks with crutches.
Co-directors Grayman and Parkhurst met in Milan, Italy, on a tour with “West Side Story.”
“When we decided to start a theater company we thought of Kansas City because it’s my hometown,” Parkhurst said, “but also because of the wealth of talent here.”
“We noticed a disproportionate amount of Kansas City talent playing in New York City. We thought why not put that talent on stage here before it goes to New York,” he added.
The cast of “13,” residence and their school:
Fisher Stewart, Olathe, Olathe Northwest.
Allison Banks, Lee’s Summit, Lee’s Summit North.
Joshua Holloway, Lenexa, Trailridge Middle.
Jared Berlin, Lenexa, Shawnee Mission Northwest.
Libby Terril, Lake Quivira, St. Teresa’s Academy.
Devyn Trondson, Lenexa, Shawnee Mission Northwest.
Jake Bartley, Olathe, Olathe Northwest.
Sheridan Mirador, Kansas City, Academie Lafayette.
Darcie A. Hingula, Shawnee, Monticello Trails Middle.
Holly Jackson, Lenexa, Westridge Middle.
Cael Kuhn, Lenexa, Holy Trinity Catholic.
Jordan Haas, Blue Springs, Delta Woods Middle.
Janie Carr, Kansas City, St. Paul’s Episcopal Day.
Female ensemble: Katie Hulla, Overland Park, Lakewood Middle; Callie Fabac, Olathe, Olathe Northwest; Emerson Pereira, Prairie Village, Pembroke Hill.
Male ensemble: Jackson Tomlin, Shawnee, Trailridge Middle; Jackson Berland, Lawrence, Lawrence High; Samuel Wise, Lenexa, Barstow School
“13” opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and runs 8 p.m. Friday; 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 7:30 p.m.. Feb. 18; 8 p.m. Feb. 19; 8 p.m. Feb. 20; 2 p.m. Feb. 21; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25; 8 p.m. Feb. 26; 8 p.m. Feb. 27; 2 p.m. Feb. 28
For more information or tickets, call (816) 569-5277 or go online to www.spinningtreetheatre.com.