By Carol Taber
FRANKLINTON — Opening night is almost here! Franklinton Area Community Theater (FACT) has been working on its spring production of Annie Jr. since January.
Under the direction of Franklinton High School theater teacher Lisa Lawrence and musical director Windy Edwards, also of Franklin County schools, FACT is in its 12th year of helping children enjoy the experience of performing before live audiences.
FACT had a serendipitous beginning. At the time, Lawrence was an English teacher for Franklinton High School. Her class was rewriting Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for modern readers. While working on their adaptation, they decided they wanted to try acting it out as a play.
“It ended up being really good,” Lawrence said. So good, in fact, her class performed for other students and for their parents. Little Shop of Horrors was the next play her students learned after A Doll’s House. It was her students’ enthusiasm to perform that was the genesis of FACT.
The original vision for FACT included adult performers as well as children. But when adult participation was lacking, FACT evolved into a total theater experience for youth, and now includes opportunities to perform on stage, direct, stage management, technical support and set design for hundreds of area children ages 5 to 18 from Franklin and Wake counties.
FACT puts on two shows a year, in the fall and spring. From the start, to be in a FACT production is a realistic theater experience in that all participants have to audition with a song that is performed a cappella. The spring show highlights younger children and the play is adapted to include as many enthusiastic actors as possible. Participation in the fall production is geared toward older youth and is competitive — as in theater hopefuls need to be prepared for possible cuts at auditions.
This is an amazing opportunity for the children in our areas. Since its inception in 2004, director Lawrence has poured into the children lives, creating “safe and nurturing environment where all kids are accepted and enjoy sharing their passion with others their age.”
As music director for the past five years, Edwards said, “I love working with the children! I love teaching them to sing. My favorite part of working with FACT is watching the kids grow up on stage. I love to see them grow into more confident actors and actresses.”
Edward’s daughter, Whitley, is performing as Annie and her son, Tom, is playing the role of Sandy, Annie’s dog.
Edwards said, “Even though I only have two children on stage, I feel that they are all my children. We spend lots of time together, sharing in our success. I am beyond proud of this group.” And there is much to be proud of as more than 60 children are participating in Annie Jr.
Parent Lindsey Wilson says she would do only one thing different looking back on her family’s participation with FACT. “I wish I would have gotten my son (Jeremy, who is participating in his fourth production) involved many years ago, because he absolutely adores it,” Wilson said. “Lisa and Windy, in their volunteer roles, provide instruction to the kids backed by years of experience.”
Over the last 12 years, FACT’s productions have included Godspell, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Into the Woods, Seussical the Musical, The Pied Piper, Willy Wonka, Little Mermaid Jr, Dr Dolittle, Schoolhouse Rock and The Sound of Music.
As with any community venture, parents and the community are an integral part of making the productions so successful. Parent volunteers help with supervision, costumes and publicity. Area businesses can help by becoming a sponsor. Sponsorship at varying levels comes with perks like ads in the playbill and tickets to the shows.
In keeping with the times, supporters can donate to FACT using the Amazon Smile program available through smile.amazon.com. FACT also receives support from The Franklin County Arts Counsel and The North Carolina Arts Council.