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Frostburg Students Learn to Take a Show on the Road With “Junie B. Jones”
12/17/2015

Kimberly Lartz
Kimberly Lartz
Erienne McEldowney
Erienne McEldowney
Jasmine Proctor
Jasmine Proctor

Just like the title character of “Junie B. Jones: The Musical,” the show’s cast and crew can stand out in a crowd for all the right reasons. The children’s musical is part of Frostburg State University’s Roundabout Theatre and CES Arts for the Schools, which travelled to area schools to stage the play during the fall semester.

The musical, featuring student designs at a number of levels, had a challenge not faced in most shows. In addition to shows in their regular home in the Performing Arts Center, they had to be ready to pack everything up and perform in unfamiliar spaces when they took their show on the road.

The fast-paced work features non-stop singing, dialogue, dance steps and subtle set changes to make Junie B. Jones’ world come alive. It’s a must to hold the attention of a young audience.

“Children are very energetic, so you need to give them an energy so they’ll pay attention,” said choreographer Erienne McEldowney of Laurel. The FSU senior leaned on the style of music to execute a high-energy show.

“You need to give the actors really popping dance moves. The actors have to have energy, whether they’re speaking or singing or dancing,” she said. “I was using that jazzy style to energize the movements and everything else. We have a lot of running here, running there. Quick shuffles there.”

Despite the controlled chaos, lead actress Jasmine Proctor of Waldorf said McEldowney’s work easily translates into “Junie B. Jones.”

“You have a lot to remember, but you just have to be really calm and have a lot of focus,” the FSU sophomore said.” I really get lost into what I’m doing. After I get my costume on and makeup on, I’m not really Jasmine anymore. I’m Junie B., so it feels really natural. So I don’t really feel overwhelmed with what I’m doing.”

Behind the dancing and acting, the actors interact with the set that transforms from a closed notebook to an open notebook that doubles as a classroom and a home. Building blocks that spell out Junie B. Jones are also used as seats throughout scenes, all thanks to set and props designer Kimberly Lartz of Poolesville.

“I love children’s theater,” the FSU senior said. With all of the colors and everything around me, I thought, ‘What was the most outrageous thing I could think of that I could put in here and just make sense?’”

Her pride and joy of the set is a chalkboard that lowers down to reveal a kitchen window and a table for house scenes. The pictures on the interior walls are inspired by scenes in the musical.

“I chose my favorite moments from the ‘Junie B Jones’ show. She has the moment with Herb on the bus, and that stole my heart,” she said, identifying the picture of the bus on the wall. “That needs to go right there and needs to be one of the big things you see. It’s kind of, ‘What is her life and what is important to her?’”

Lartz also channels her inner Junie B. Jones by showing that different can be cool. She’s challenging stereotypes with her carpentry skills, which was especially handy to build a collapsible set for touring. 

“It’s definitely been an interesting experience. I learned to embrace the fact that I’m a small woman nonetheless. Going beyond that, I wear steel toes; I always have a nail gun on me,” she said. “It challenges everyone around you to change what they think what should be a carpenter.”

Proctor hopes that the kids who see “Junie B Jones” will be inspired by the message of the play and the hard work of the cast and crew.

“I hope that some kids relate to Junie B because they’re that little kid too, and realize that it’s OK to be yourself,” said Proctor, who was an avid reader of the eponymous book series by Barbara Park. ”I also hope that a lot of little kids get interested in theater because it’s a great art form. It’s a great way to really express yourself. I wish that I had more people to try to push me into theater when I was growing up, especially being so young.”

The cast and crew say they could not stage “Junie B. Jones” if it weren’t for the opportunities given to them at FSU.

“All of our professors and all of our teachers are so hands on. They go above and beyond to help us and to better us as actors and actresses,” Proctor said. “I’m really thankful for them for showing me the ropes and helping me better myself as an actress.”

For more information, including schedules of upcoming programming, visit www.frostburg.edu/dept/theatredance for FSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance and ces.frostburg.edu for CES at FSU.

- Charles Schelle

For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589
E-mail: news@frostburg.edu