Descendants to Open Aug. 13


By Hannah Lester

Don’t you want to be evil? Sounds like a strange question. But when asked by Maleficent to her teenage daughter — things begin to make a little more sense.

The cast has been hard at work since March and will open the show, Descendants, on Aug. 13.

For many of the actors and actresses, this is not their first performance with OTC. Some have been with the production company for years.

But one thing that many in the ensemble had to learn — how to work with a mixed cast of both children and adults.

2021-07-12 OTC

Learning Young:

Children are giggling, teasing each other as they run across the Southside Center for the Arts, a spacious room that has now been outfitted with painted scenery representing Auradon Prep.

Director Marty Moore is gathering the young thespians together to practice something specific — walking across the stage so they don’t sound, as she later puts it, like a herd of Water Buffalo.

The children taking Moore’s acting class are learning the fundamentals of everything theatre-related — projecting their voices, walking quietly but purposefully, how to give a monologue, how to sing and dance and more.

“In April, when we first started, we kind of went over music a lot,” said Camilla Kitchens, 11, who is playing the role of the Fairy Godmother’s Daughter. “We’d sit in the piano room with our music teacher and we’d just go over vocals.”

By the end of May, the group was choreographing and blocking their scenes. In early July, blocking was finished and the group had a month to begin running the show through from start to finish.

The young performers are learning, too, about working with other people.

“The most difficult part is having chemistry with the people you’re working with,” Kitchens said.  “In the show, there’s a couple people that I don’t like in real life, but I have to like in the show. I would just say it’s the chemistry that you kind of have to act like you really, really like this person and you want to throw a punch at them in real life.”

Or having to portray characters that don’t reflect their personalities at all.

“I’ve actually had to get a lot of help on this,” said Lucy Zellner, 13, who is playing Mel, one of the main players in the show. “Because I’m not an evil person at all and just the fact that she is just the complete opposite of me. I got people yesterday to help me, I’ve had people for months trying to help me. And honestly, it’s just so hard because I go from this bubbly person that I normally am to this evil, grungy, grimy kind of person.”

Dalton Ruth Bendinger, 11, who will be playing Evie, one of the leads in the show, said one of the challenges for her has been learning choreography. And for Clayton McBurney, 14, who is playing Ben, the son of Beauty and the Beast, it is acting, his strong suit is singing.

Another challenge the children had to reckon with is performing with adults in the cast as well.

“Sometimes adults don’t understand that we’re supposed to be energetic on stage, we’re supposed to be happy and we’re supposed to be presenting ourselves in a show-like manner,” Kitchens said.

But the flip side is the adults are always present to help with challenges, help learn lines, keep the children in order.

“We know that they’ve been doing it longer than us because they have more experience with it so they’re going to be better than us,” said Kinsley Williamson, 12, who is playing the part of the royal page. “And they like to help us out and teach us by learning their parts and ours so they can help us step up and help us do our parts.”

Playing Parents:

Many of the adults in the Descendants cast are playing the parents of the children in the show.

2021-07-12 OTC

But, the irony, is that some of the adult performers are actually the parents of these children in real life.

“I have five children and the two youngest are into theatre and so I saw a Facebook post years ago about a production called Emma that was being done and my next to youngest son auditioned for that and that’s how I got involved in this theatre group,” said Robbin Brasfield, who is playing Cruella De Vil.

Her son Justin Brasfield, 12, will be playing Doug in the show.

“[I enjoy] getting to see them interact with other kids, and to see them develop their characters, and take in feedback, and improve their singing and dancing and just getting to know their friends so their friends are not just a name,” she said.

This is not Robbin’s first show with OTC, she also performed in Nunsense.

2021-07-12 OTC

“The first time I did Nunsense, the first night we performed I was so nervous, I was just in the ensemble, but I was so nervous and I thought, ‘this is how my kids feel when they go out for their performance’ and I really had a new appreciation for what they do,” she said.

Douglas Bendinger, playing Maurice and also serving as the understudy for Jafar, has been able to work with his daughter, Dalton.

“It’s very rewarding because she loves it so much, you can see it her face,” he said. “I enjoy watching her perform and sing.”

The Adult Players:

There are a lot more children in the show than there are adults.

“The pace is different,” Robbin said. “When working with children or with teenagers, there’s a lot of repetition, there’s a lot of disciplining.”

One of the hardest parts is just keeping the children’s attention, said Seth McCollough, who is involved with his first production with OTC, serving as both a director and playing a role in the show as the Fairy Godmother.

Being an adult in a show with children has its other responsibilities too. McCollough’s tasks vary from child wrangling to directing, applying makeup to gluing sequins on a costume.

“I guess you could call me a gopher director because I go wherever Marty wants me to go,” he said.

But there are rewarding moments when working with the talented children.

“Watching them have the time of their lives on that stage … and they’re performing and they have their costumes on and their makeup done and the music’s going and the stage lights are on … watching them shine is the best part of the whole thing,” McCollough said.

Catherine Mayhugh, playing Malificent, raved about the talent in the children.

“If you come and see these kids when the show is opening night, you’re going to be like ‘oh my gosh, these kids, they’re amazing,’” she said.

Show Time:

When it came time to begin running the show through in July, both the children and adults were given their costumes to wear.

In a red gown, with a fur color and a spotted puppy on her shoulder, Cruella de Vil makes her way to the stage, with children running up to ooh and aah.

Maleficent grabs the children’s attention in another way, with a cackling laugh that echoes around the room.

For months, the performers have been working together to move past the kinks in the show, get to know one another and perform together.

And despite the difficulties, the children and adults both say it’s all worth it.

“It’s just a great sense of performing,” Kitchens said. “And when you’re on that stage, you are hot, you’re sweaty, you have multiple layers on, you’re in a costume, your makeup might be dripping down your face, your hair might be messy but in the end, you’re all together, you’re all doing to the same thing and the audience is there and they’re enjoying it.”

Mayhugh said just being able to play a myriad of characters in all of OTC’s performances is rewarding.

“If you want a good smile, and you want to have a feel good moment, come enjoy the show,” she said.

Community Theatre is something special, McCollough said.

“I love community theatre, I love all the people that are involved with community theatre,” he said. “You have all sorts of kinds and it’s just a place for everybody.”

The keyword is community. Opelika Theatre Company is made up of local people who all share an interest in theatre.

“Instead of going and seeing something on Broadway, with people you don’t even know, why not come here and see a show with people you know, people you’ve interacted with and just kind of get into the musical theatre community and see what it’s like,” Kitchens said.

For many of the children, Opelika Theatre Company is where they hope to get their start.

“I’ve always loved acting,” Zellner said. “Because my siblings did it, I’m the youngest, and so it’s been so amazing. My siblings would do it and I’d watch their shows and I’d be like, ‘I just want to do that so bad.’ And then I would not be able to because I was just so young … finally I was able to and I was like, ‘this is the best experience I’ve ever had.’”

Kitchens hopes to attend Baylor University for musical theatre and one day Juilliard.

“I’m sure people enjoy going to shows at the Fox and the Gogue and stuff like that but this is where those actors get their start,” McCollough said. “So supporting these young actors and actresses, one day may get their dream role on Broadway and you can look back and remember, ‘I remember when they were eight and on the stage at Opelika Theatre Company.’”

Getting Involved:

Almost everyone said that they encourage community members to come check out OTC and get involved.

“This place always needs new people,” said Jacob Kroll, 13, who is playing Carlos, one of the leads in the show.

Bendinger recommended theatre for more than just acting, but life skills.

“I‘ve gotten to meet a lot of new people and just see a lot of people in the community,” said Jay Collins, 14, who is playing Chad, Cinderella’s son in this show.

The Theatre Company is a place for children to come for fun, Mayhugh said. But it’s also a great place for adults.

“It is more than just a theatre group, it’s like a theatre family,” Robbin said. “Everybody is supportive of each other. You can find out you had talents you didn’t know that you had.”

Descendants will be staging the show for the next two weekends, on Aug. 13, 14, 20, 21 and 22.

“We’ve just come such a far way from where we were before,” Justin said. “… It’s just turned out super well.”

For more information on showtimes and purchasing tickets, visit:


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