Funny at birth?

Imagining a younger Jim Gradillas

You get the feeling, after reviewing last season’s offerings from Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria, that artistic director Jim Gradillas might have a fabulously funny slant on the world.

Titles included “Theatre of Screams,” “Friday Night Live,” “The Humbugs,” “Scalloped Potatoes & Egg Nog,” “Funny at Birth” and more. (I just have to ask…how many members of the french fry generation have even heard of a scalloped potato?)

Many of Gradillas’ productions feature original works or original adaptations. I remember Gradillas winning AriZoni Awards at last year’s ceremony, and the thunderous applause that filled the house each time his name was mentioned.

This man must have a serious following. And guts. He’ll tackle “Les Miserables School Edition” next April–and hopes Creative Stages will have its own performance space in time to mount a truly spectacular production. (The plan? Collect enough $25 donations to reach at least $25,000 for their building fund.)

Creative Stages will open its season with “My Kid is a Tree! A Youth Theatre Parody!”–described as “a wacky parody of the inner workings of youth theatre.” (Let me guess–it’ll feature at least one outlandish stage mom, yes?)

The show runs Sept 17 to Oct 3, with auditions scheduled for Aug 14 to cast both this and the next show of their second season–which is “Some Kind of Wonder Bread: Not a John Hughes Movie” playing Oct 8-17.

Never fear---they're more fun than frightening

Just in time for Halloween, Creative Stages presents “Theatre of Screams 2.” Watch for this one Oct 22-31.

December brings Creative Stages’ first original rock musical ala a mix of “Young Frankenstein” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” “Merry Christmas Frankenstein” –with book and lyrics by Bobby Sample and music by Josh Hontz, Connor Sample and Katie Sample”–runs Dec 10-19.

Teens have relationships? Shocking!

“The Love and Hate,” described by Gradillas as “a cutting-edge youth comedy-drama” about “the ups and downs of teen relationships,” runs Jan 21-30. 

So far, it seems, they’ve got playdates for Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day covered. Still, who knew that teen relationships had an upside?

Next up is “Very Grimm: More Tales from the Brothers Grimm,” which runs Feb 4-20. I suppose that makes this another Valentine’s Day option, assuming your date shares a benignly twisted sense of humor.

An adaptation titled “Sleeping Beauty: An Original” runs March 4-13, so I can’t quite put my finger on which holiday I can tie this baby to. Parents of toddlers mights join me rallying for March as national napping month.

“Les Miserables: School Edition” takes to the stage April 15-May 1. It’s an author-approved abridgement of the classic work that’s suitable for young performers and family audiences, and runs just over two hours.

Closing Creative Stages’ second season of classics coupled with creative new works is a new adaptation of “The Time Machine” based on the H.G. Wells thriller (May 13-22).

There’s plenty to appreciate about this line-up. You’ll have several opportunities to couple good literature with live theater. You’ll have relaxing alternatives to hectic holiday activities. You’ll have the opportunity to support one of the Valley’s newest theaters producing and presenting works for youth.

I’m feeling pretty good about entering my sixth decade of life this fall, but youth theater productions are one of the few things that leave me longing to be a kid again.

I totally nailed that last audition!

Check out these offerings from Creative Stages Youth Theatre. Who knows–you just might find yourself traveling back in time…

–Lynn

Note: AriZoni Award nominees for last season were just announced, so click here for details on how you can enjoy this year’s Arizona variation on the Tony Awards ceremony (you needn’t be in the biz to buy tickets to attend)

Coming up: Arts news you can use (for parents, teachers and advocates), Signs of Shakespeare

Update: Please visit the Creative Stages Youth Theatre website for ongoing updates on season offerings, auditions and more.

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