Sooner Theatre teaches kids the ropes of staging a production 

As part of a unique youth program, the beloved musical "Fiddler on the Roof" strikes a chord at Norman's Sooner Theatre, from Thursday to Saturday.  

"Fiddler" tells the story of Tevye, a Jewish milkman, and his struggle to maintain and preserve his family and religious practices in the face of a changing and hostile world in early 20th-century Russia. Things are further complicated when his three eldest daughters choose husbands that stray from his more traditional values. The original Broadway production of "Fiddler" debuted in 1964, went on to earn nine Tony Awards and was later adapted into an Academy Award-winning film in 1971.

"Fiddler" is part of the Sooner Theatre's 2008 Young Producers program, now in its sixth year. In addition to the normal acting duties of learning lines, choreography, songs and blocking, participants take an active role in other aspects of the show, including directing, lighting and sound, costuming, choreography, set design and marketing.

"These are incredibly talented teens and they appreciate this opportunity to learn how to put on a professional-level production both as performers and behind the scenes," said executive director Jennifer Baker.

The participants break into teams, working with Sooner Theatre staff and outside talent to develop realistic goals and schedules.

"The kids are really involved. They're so into it. I wish we had them for every production," Baker said. "Some of our participants continue to work with us throughout the year. We've gotten some great tech personnel and some of our best spot operators ever out of the Young Producers program."

Forty-four cast members range in age from 13 to 18, and come from Norman, Moore, Noble, Newalla and Oklahoma City; some 200 hopefuls auditioned for the program.

"We wish we were able to take everyone, but we do have plenty of opportunities during the year for young people to get involved," Baker said. "We really like providing that first theater experience for them."

Caitlin Royse, a six-year veteran of Sooner Theatre camps and one of two actresses playing the role of Hodel, said the program's environment is "relaxed and fun, but we get a lot of work done, too. The other performers in the cast are all my friends and we've done camp together for a long time. Everyone has gotten better with age and experience, and it's neat to watch them become their characters."

Added Baker, "Some of these kids may pursue a career in the performing arts. Others are here to make lifelong friends and memories, and it's exciting to see them put their energy toward something so positive." 

"?Eric Webb

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