Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Arts Guild's 'Annie' Is No Kiddie Production

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Arts Guild's 'Annie' Is No Kiddie Production

Article excerpt

Byline: Beau Halton, Shorelines editor

After 20 years of staging such classics as Oklahoma, Grease, West Side Story and The King and I, Judy Hulett is still trying to emphasize the Youth of the Beaches Arts Guild is not just a kiddie show.

"People who have never been to a YBAG performance don't seem to understand this is not just a rinky-dink thing," said Hulett, who co-founded the group.

As proof, she disclosed that this year's upcoming production of Annie will end up costing about $38,000. Sixty-two cast members, people ages 10 to 20 from throughout the Beaches and other parts of Jacksonville, have been rehearsing every weeknight for three hours for the past six weeks. Through the years, many of the cast members have gone on to professional drama careers.

"We don't turn away anyone who auditions with us," Hulett said. "We seem to be getting bigger and bigger every year. We always see new faces. But we also have some 15- and 16-year-olds who have been with us for years."

A flock of 10- and 11-year-olds, most of whom have never been in theater before, will play the orphans in Annie, which will be performed Friday and Saturday nights at Fletcher High School.

But Annie will also have some familiar names and faces.

Eleven-year-old Julia Fallon of Jacksonville Beach, whose mother, Tina Fallon, was the drama teacher at Fletcher for years, will play the title role. Beaches resident Josh Edwards, who plans to major in opera at Northwestern University, will play Daddy Warbucks. Edwards, who has been with YBAG for five years, is the grandson of former Fletcher music teacher Barnes Sales.

"Most of our kids are from the Beaches, from Ponte Vedra through Atlantic Beach," Hulett said, "although we also get some people from all over town. A lot come to audition from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts."

Unlike many Jacksonville youth summer drama camps that have tuitions, YBAG is free.

"The only thing they pay for is their costumes," Hulett said. "Many drama camps can cost $200 to $300 a week, and there's nothing wrong with that. But we're proud of the fact that these kids have a six-week summer drama camp that teaches them the basics of theater, that gives them a lot of fun, and we don't turn anyone away. …

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