Valerie Myers recognized early on that her sons, Garrett and Justin, were talented and interested in acting.
“They got so much enjoyment participating in our home-school theater I thought they should have the experience of professional training to determine if they were as talented as I thought and just how strong their interest is,” Myers said.
She heard good things about a summer camp for young performers run by Jeanne Beechwood, founder and artistic director of Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Company and enrolled the boys.
“They absolutely loved every minute of it,” said Myers of Shawee.
This spring Garrett, 17, and Justin, 12, made their professional acting debut in “Practically Perfect Peter,” an original production at Martin City, Jr. in Olathe. The show has public performances at 10 a.m. June 5, noon June 6 and 10 a.m. July 14. The show will tour through July 31 or after.
Beechwood wrote and directed the play with music by Jon Copeland, musical director of Martin City Melodrama. Martin City, Jr. is a division for young performers that Beechwood established in 2003.
“Garrett and Justin were so impressive in summer camp I wanted to give them an opportunity to perform in professional theater so I hired them for ‘Practically Perfect Peter’,” Beechwood explained. “They’re paid like all of our professionals.”
Martin City, Jr. is currently in the Great Mall of the Great Plains, 20700 W. 151 St. in Olathe, but will be moving July 31.
“I haven’t selected a new location for the theater but I hope to have one soon,” Beechwood said. “Our lease expires July 31st. The mall is scheduled to close this fall.”
Martin City, Jr. does shows in a theater but also goes on the road to schools, churches, libraries and day cares, Beechwood said.
“People like being entertained by talented young performers,” she said.
Because Garrett and Justin Myers are home-schooled, they’re always available, which is important in scheduling shows, Beechwood said. The boys will be a part of the Martin City, Jr. performing camps June 8-20.
“I’ve learned so much this year,” Garrett said. “It’s been an amazing experience, makes me want more. I love comedy. I love making people laugh and ‘Practically Perfect Peter’ is great for that. I especially enjoy performing before children. I like hearing them giggle and laugh.
“Comedy is my thing,” he said. “I may try serious roles later on but right now it’s comedy for me. Making people laugh gives me energy. I think about making acting a career.”
Justin goes for comedy, too.
“I like being in the show. I like the laughs. It’s a lot of fun and performing has really helped my self-confidence,” Justin said. “I’m also a music lover. I play four instruments. I pretty much taught myself how to play them. Guitar is my best. I have seven of them. Each has a different sound.
“I also play a bass guitar, a traveler guitar, a harmonica and an instrument I call a banjolele. It’s a combination of a banjo and a ukulele. I play all of them in the show, accompanying my brother when he sings,” he said.
“Right now I’m learning the trumpet. I want to learn as many instruments as I can, anything I get my hands on,” Justin said with a laugh. “I especially like ’70s and ’80s rock, it’s my favorite. But I like blues, too.”
In the show Garrett portrays Peter, a young boy who is very creative but doesn’t always follow his mother’s rules. His mother, played by Beechwood, sends him to his room. He falls asleep and during a sequence of dreams he is visited by Peter Rabbit, Peter the Wolf and Peter Pan — also played by Beechwood — who counsel him. When he awakens he follows mother’s rules. Justin plays Peter’s brother Parker in the show.
“Performing has done so much for the boys, especially their self-confidence,” Myers said. “They learn more with each performance. Jeanne is such a good teacher. She has high expectations for her actors.”
Beechwood plans to submit “Practically Perfect Peter” to the International New York Festival for 2016.
“Martin City, Jr. has been selected twice to appear in New York City, in 2006 and 2011, with original musicals for children,” Beechwood said. “It is a juried process and we hope to be chosen for 2016. Garrett and Justin have never been to New York City, so it could be quite the adventure.”
“Practically Perfect Peter” is June 5 and 6 and July 14 at Martin City, Jr. at the Great Mall of the Great Plains, 20700 W. 151 St. in Olathe. For more information or reservations call 913-642-7576 or go to martincity melodrama.org.