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Theater becomes family tradition

'The Music Man,' put on by Glendale's Stepping Stone Players, runs at Hoover High School through Aug. 26.

August 18, 2012|By Laura Tate
  • Michael Thatcher performs onstage during the first scene of dress rehearsal of "The Music Man" at Hoover High School in Glendale.
Michael Thatcher performs onstage during the first scene… (Cheryl A. Guerrero…)

Generations of actors keep coming back to Glendale's Stepping Stone Players. One of them is veteran actor and director Allan Hunt, who first performed with the group in the role of Harold Hill in “The Music Man” in 2005, directed “Oliver!” in 2007, played the title role in “The Wizard of Oz” in 2009 and was Grandpa Joe in “Willy Wonka.” Now he's back again as director of “The Music Man,” which opened this week at Hayhurst Hall on the Hoover High School campus.

“It's really great introducing children to the theater,” said Hunt of working with the nonprofit theater group, which mingles children onstage with adults and professionals. “It's really well worth it. They have great energy, and are so willing to learn.”

Steven Yaussi was a teenager when he played the Scarecrow in the Stepping Stone Players' very first production, “The Wizard of Oz,” in 2000. Now an audio and lighting designer based in Chicago, he's returned to do the lighting for “The Music Man,” which is co-produced by his father, Craig Yaussi, the theater group's board president. “I've come full circle,” Steven Yaussi said.

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It's not an unusual phenomenon for the group. Many children who learned the craft of acting and stage production with the theater group later eventually became professionals in the industry and have returned as adults to mentor future generations of actors, directors, musicians, stage technicians and choreographers, said Belinda Howell, a founding member of the Stepping Stone Players and a co-producer of “The Music Man.”

The theater group came into existence when parents, appalled that their children were lip-syncing to Britney Spears songs as a form of “theater production” in local schools, got together and founded the Stepping Stone Players to offer real theater experience to local children. Now in its 12th year, the program continues to offer yearly onstage and offstage theater experience to local children and adults, and the opportunity to work alongside professionals in the industry.

“There wasn't any theater,” said Howell, who holds advanced degrees from CalArts, Mount Holyoke College and California State University, Long Beach. “We started out with children, and now adults are involved and we have professional actors, musicians and directors mentoring the kids. It's kind of blossomed.”

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