PITTSBURG — The Jr. Starz Workshop through Pittsburg Community Theatre produced two shows with two completely different casts Friday at Memorial Auditorium.
The workshop enrolled nearly 80 local children this year after expanding to two sessions. The two groups rehearsed and produced the same show: “Press Start!” The workshop and production were directed by Megan Gabehart, with musical direction by Mary Jo Harper — familiar faces around PCT.
Gabehart has directed Jr. Starz for four years — as well as directing many PCT shows — and serves as a PCT board member. She said the workshop was expanded into two sessions following high demand last year.
“Last year, I raised from 40 spots to 50, and we had 10 waiting list spots,” Gabehart said. “The demand was so large, not only were we putting people on the waiting list, but turning children away because it was full.”
This year, the board made the decision to offer two sessions, each of 40 children. The children practiced four hours, five days a week for two weeks leading up to Friday’s performances. But Gabehart said they weren’t simply rehearsing lines. The Jr. Starz learn all their blocking and music in that time, as well as having a snack, and making crafts — which were displayed in the lobby of Memorial Auditorium during the shows.
“This is a really big production for these children,” Gabehart said. “They work really, really hard.”
“Press Start!” is a musical centered around classic video games. With the rise of apps and new technology, the classic video games are out of play, and the heroes are beginning to get depressed. Many recognizable characters — heroes, sidekicks and villains — band together to raise gold rings in a telethon to get the heroes back into play.
The musical features plenty of quirky dialogue and an 8-bit sound track that takes audiences back to the arcade.
The Jr. Starz program works with Memorial Auditorium tech staff, which builds all of the sets, controls lighting and more. The camp is also made up of group leaders — ranging from middle school to adults — many of whom aged out of the Jr. Starz program and came back to help teach.
“It’s great on the first day to line up my group leaders and say ‘raise your hand if you were in Jr. Starz,’” Gabehart said. “It shows the new children that the staff loved the workshop so much they wanted to give back.”
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.