Parents set the scene for Roselle children's theater
The hours are long, the work can be physically demanding and the pay is abysmal. In fact, there is no pay.
Even so, the parents who volunteer to help with stagecraft duties for the Roselle Park District's Repertoire Theater of the Arts program don't mind a bit.
"I love it. I love being able to be a part of it," said Siri Morrone, whose 6-year-old daughter, Ella, has been appearing in the program's shows since its inception about 18 months ago.
Morrone said she got involved as a direct result of her daughter's participation.
"I started helping behind the scenes, then I started helping on the stage with props," she said.
For the current show, "Beauty and the Beast Junior," Morrone was given the task of outfitting dozens of children in the ensemble cast.
After scouring thrift stores and garage sales, she found the raw material for some 46 villager costumes, she said, all of which have been stored in her Roselle residence.
"I have gone through two garment racks because they've broken from the weight," she said.
"We measure every single kid," she said, referring to herself and the others in a group of tight-knit parent volunteers.
While Morrone brings her artistic vision to tweaking the finishing touches on apparel, she said most of the sewing is done by fellow parents such as Nikki Rygel and Tina Killian, who made the costumes for the lead actors in this show.
"I'm more of the glue-and-glitter girl," Morrone said. "We just all work together really well."
"We do a divide-and-tackle," said Nikki Rygel.
She said this show required formalwear for several characters.
"We found some women's blazers and cut them up and reconfigured them to be formal tailcoats for the men," Rygel said.
Rygel and her husband, Dan Rygel, have been volunteering with the park district's theater program since it staged its second show, "Annie Junior." Their daughter, Claire, 12, was cast in the lead role. Claire also plays the lead, Belle, in one of the two "Beauty and the Beast Junior" casts.
"They were looking for people to help," Dan Rygel said, adding that he and his wife were happy to oblige. "We have backdrops we paint with different scenery on it. And we build things."
The group has built microphone stands and staircases, laboring in the recreation center hallways on rehearsal nights, he said.
For the production of the "The Little Mermaid," he said, the volunteer stage crew needed a fabricated rock for mermaid Ariel to perch upon. The parents hit on the idea of painting a chunk of home insulation, a creation that has become a stock prop for the fledgling theater company.
"It just came out really cool," Dan Rygel said. "We're slowly building these things up so we can reuse them."
Susan Ross, a park district employee, is directing the show. Ross has been involved with the theater group since it began.
"Those parents are amazing people. They get heavily involved. They do so much for that program," Ross said. "It's very family oriented. It's such a family team effort."
Recreation Supervisor Ed Bjes, who helped launch the program in May 2014, said he is impressed by the parents' collective enthusiasm and their willingness to devote their time and effort.
"Every (rehearsal) night they're here in the building, painting, sewing," he said.
Bjes is passing park district oversight for the program to his colleague Erica Mazzuca, a recreation supervisor.
"It's really nice to see them come together," Mazzuca said. "It's incredible, the support everyone has for each other."
If you goWhat: "Beauty and the Beast Junior," staged by the Roselle Park District Repertoire Theater of the Arts
When: 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5
Where: Lake Park High School West Campus, 500 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Roselle
Tickets: $8 for adults, $4 for children younger than 5 in advance; $10 for adults and $5 for children younger than 5 at the door
Info: (630) 894-4200 and rparks.org