YAG brings next generation of Disney villains to stage Oct. 27-29

YAG brings next generation of Disney villains to stage Oct. 27-29

“We have so many incredible alumni doing brilliant things,” Missy Gipson brags about the Van Buren-based Young Actors Guild. “We have two alumni currently performing on Broadway, Chad Burris in ‘Almost Famous’ and Zachary Myers in ‘A Strange Loop.’ We have Hunter Doohan, who was last seen in ‘Your Honor’ on Showtime and is currently on the Netflix show ‘Wednesday.’ And Cody Walls, Blakeley Knox and Victoria Greer are all involved in area theater and were most recently seen in Pilot Arts’ ‘The Golden Record.’

“But we also have alumni that are brilliant in other careers like teaching, biomedical sciences, business, the list goes on,” adds Gipson, YAG’s executive director. Theater, she says, provides “the best armor we can give our kids as they journey through their childhood into adulthood: Confidence, confidence, confidence.”

Right now, the current generation of YAG students is preparing to open Disney’s “Descendants: The Musical,” in which the teenage children of Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Jafar and Cruella De Vil leave the Isle of the Lost to attend prep school alongside the children of beloved Disney heroes. That forces them into a difficult decision: Should they follow in their parents’ wicked footsteps or learn to be good?

Fifteen-year-old Mylea Holmes of Fort Smith plays Mal, the daughter of Maleficent.

“She starts out really mean and bad and the leader of the four ‘Evils,’” Holmes says. “With the help of her love interest, Prince Ben, she learns how to be good.

“A lot of times the shows that kids are in are geared towards kid audiences, so it’s really cool to see someone your own age do something that you could do as well,” she goes on. “Kids can also bring a whole different version of characters than adults can do.”

With Broadway hopes for her future, Holmes says, “I love theater because you can pretend to be someone completely different from who you are in real life. Theater is also a very warm environment, and you meet amazing people along the way.”

Braxton DeLude, a 13 year old from Alma, plays Carlos, “a very mischievous coward who is banished with his mom Cruella De Vil for being evil. He travels to Auradon with several other evil descendants to enact revenge for their parents. As he embarks on that journey, he finds his true self.”

Having performed with YAG since he was 6 years old, DeLude says, “I find theater a safe place to be who I am. It’s challenging both physically and mentally. It takes a lot of dedication, grit and perseverance. I’d love to one day perform on Broadway and become a television actor!

“Kids on stage are more thrilling and energetic,” he adds. “This show specifically people should come see because the characters are relatable. The kids in our production are very talented and worth the time!”

“As far as the current generation of YAG kids, it’s been really interesting to see how their dreams and goals vary so much but aren’t that different from the kids I worked with 15 years ago,” Gipson muses. “They all have BIG dreams, but they also all love their community and are all really involved and invested. Pretty great crew to spend rehearsal with!”

YAG, Gipson adds, has been around since 1950, making it Arkansas’ oldest youth theater, she believes. She joined up in 2006.

“Their mission is high-quality theater experiences that no child pays a participation fee for,” she explains. “Arts education is expensive, and we have families who can’t afford to do dance or music lessons, or pay to be in a show, so this mission is one that I feel passionate about.

“It’s incredible to me the opportunities YAG offers through our productions — working with excellent teaching artists, learning to work with musicians and an introduction to sight reading music, creating goals and achieving them, and working together to create an ensemble. All of this results in the one thing all kids need, a strong belief in themselves to achieve big things!”



‘Descendants: The Musical’

WHEN — 7 p.m. Oct. 27-28; 2:30 and 7 p.m. Oct. 29

WHERE — King Opera House in Van Buren

COST — $15-$20

INFO — weareyag.com

Categories: Theater