The Show is Dedicated to Molly Steinsapir, with a Fundraiser Planned for July 24
By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
Theatre Palisades Youth will host eight performances of “Aladdin JR.” at an outdoor theater at Temescal Gateway Park between Friday, July 23, and Sunday, August 1.
“Join Aladdin, Jasmine and the fast-talking, wisecracking Genie as they discover mystical caves, take magic carpet rides and outwit the evil sorcerer, Jafar,” according to a show synopsis shared ahead of the first performance. “Adapted especially for young performers, this musical includes favorite Alan Menken songs such as ‘Friend Like Me,’ ‘A Whole New World’ and ‘Prince Ali,’ as well as wonderful new songs added for the Broadway production.”
Director Lara Ganz led a cast of 25 student actors, alongside Assistant Director Aaron Jung, Choreographer Emma Green, Music Director Harriet Fraser, and Producers Andy and Erika Ramos.
Theatre Palisades Youth, which typically hosts two productions per year at Pierson Playhouse, has pivoted to an outdoor venue at Temescal Gateway Park for its summer 2021 show due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We have an enormous amount of prep work we have been doing to basically create a theater where this is not a theater,” Ganz explained of the venue. “The kids have been thoroughly enjoying being out in nature every day in our beautiful and peaceful natural surroundings.”
She shared that working with the staff at the park has been “so wonderful,” with Joyce Whitehead, the park director, assisting Theatre Palisades Youth organizers “every step of the way to make this experience truly delightful.”
Ganz explained that she considers “Aladdin JR.” to be the group’s “Golden Rejoining.” Their last in-person show before pandemic-related restrictions went into place was “Frozen JR.” which closed on March 3, 2020.
“Our cast was made up of 45 kids—a close, supportive and powerful community,” she said. “Ten days later, the quarantine began.”
Ganz said that they tried to hold the community close, but rehearsing and performing shows online is “extremely difficult” and became too much of a struggle for many of the young actors.
“Over time, the community that we once had was broken, shattered in so many ways,” Ganz said. “I am inclined to liken our summer production of ‘Aladdin JR.’ to Kintsugi, the ancient Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold dust resin. This show is our ‘golden rejoining.’”
Ganz added that during this time, the Theatre Palisades Youth community also lost a “beloved member” of their company: Molly Steinsapir, who died at the age of 12 earlier this year after suffering brain trauma in a bike accident.
The Steinsapir family has become benefactors of the Theatre Palisades Youth program “in order to honor Molly’s memory at the place that was once her second home,” according to Ganz. Her mother, Kaye, is “dedicated to the mission of elevating” the children’s program and enabling them to “build back better.”
“This summer, the funds raised in Molly’s memory are allowing us the opportunity to perform in Temescal Canyon, where we can be outside with the young actors,” Ganz shared, “Otherwise, we would not be able to rehearse in-person at our indoor Pierson Playhouse location with so many young children.”
The show will be dedicated to Molly, who was the inspiration behind Theatre Palisades Youth selecting “Aladdin JR.” as its summer show.
“When we closed ‘The Little Mermaid’ in the summer of 2019, Molly Steinsapir came to me with her ‘Aladdin JR.’ script from a production she had done previously,” Ganz explained. “She asked me if I would consider doing ‘Aladdin JR.’ the following summer in 2020.”
The plan was in motion, but due to the pandemic, Ganz had to alter the course, instead doing an online version of “The Sound of Music.” After Molly’s passing in February, her brother, Nate, made plans to join the cast for the summer 2021 show. After a discussion with Kaye, it was decided that “Aladdin JR.” would be the summer show—and it would be dedicated to Molly.
“Our plan is to have one show for every production going forward that will be ‘Molly’s Show,’” Ganz shared. “A single performance dedicated to raising funds for Theatre Palisades, ‘Molly’s Fund.’”
This time, before the show on Saturday, July 24, there will be a slide show presentation and speech given by Nate. There will also be “TEAMMOLLY” merchandise available for purchase.
“The funds we are raising will be used for program scholarships for young actors whose families cannot afford to pay tuition and to help fund Molly’s mural, as well as helping to fund items for our productions,” Ganz shared.
When completed, the mural will feature Molly on a wall at Pierson Playhouse, an idea that originated from Theatre Palisades and other members of the community.
For more information, including a complete list of “Aladdin JR.” performance times, or to purchase tickets, visit theatrepalisades.org/youth.
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