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"The Characters that Lived" brings life to writing by young CYC authors

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CYC students wrote character sketches in afterschool programming and watched them come to life at Wealthy Theatre last Wednesday thanks to the performance of Grand Rapids improv actors.
Proud creators of the characters Canny Rodreges and Minnie Mouse

Proud creators of the characters Canny Rodreges and Minnie Mouse /Two 9 Two Media

Save the date for spoken word!

Our middle school authors are  collaborating with Triumph Music Academy students to create a spoken word and music performance! Please join us for this free event on Friday, December 16 at the Wealthy Theatre micro-cinema. Check our Facebook page for updated information. 

The characters Cimeon, Piggy Frog the First, and James

The characters Cimeon, Piggy Frog the First, and James /Two 9 Two Media

Student authors and a volunteer celebrate in the Wealthy Theatre lobby

Student authors and a volunteer celebrate in the Wealthy Theatre lobby /Two 9 Two Media

On Wednesday, October 26, Wealthy Theatre was roaring with laughter during "The Characters that Lived", the second installment of the Creative Youth Center’s annual comedy improv show. The first show, "The Sketches that Lived", premiered October 2015. This year, third through fifth grade students in the CYC’s Afterschool Adventure program created their own unique characters.

Some characters you might find in your everyday life, like Canny Rodreges, a doctor from California; or McDolbee, a boy from New York who likes to do flips and travel. Others are some you may never encounter in this world, like Astrophase, a space traveler from Neptune who has a robot dog named Spaceling; Bleep Blob Bloog, an alien who can only say his name and the word “tuna;” or Someone: Classified: Thunder, a man made of electricity from the fictional planet Zhabopiae. But no matter where the characters are from, they all came wildly to life on stage.

Sofie, a Parisian baker, Her Grandest Highness Angel Yactoo, a snobby cat, and Poopy Pants, a six-month old baby who whines all the time were all enjoying life on the Eiffel Tower when suddenly, they each broke into song and dance about their troubles. The result was hilarity.

Omaria, the 4th grader who created Sofie, said this scene was her favorite part of the show. She was inspired to create Sofie because they both like baking and eating cakes. Omaria has been with the CYC for four years, and says the character sketches were her favorite thing to write because she was able to show a whole audience her creation.

Jurni, another 4th grader, also liked being able to show her character off. In fact, that’s her favorite part of writing. “You can express your ideas, you can share your ideas with other people.” Both Jurni and her character, Za’niya, enjoy playing basketball and one day want to play in the NBA.

The students weren’t the only ones who loved seeing the characters come to life; the actors loved it, too.

“The kids’ descriptions of characters are amazing. We do improv regularly around town, but we can never come up with anything as crazy as they do,” said actor Lis Hatfield who played the characters of Mom Smuguls, Angel Yactoo, Za’niya, and Lula. “It’s so much fun to figure out how to incorporate their awesome, off-the-wall ideas that we would never have put together and think ‘okay, how do we make this stuff work?’”

The show was directed by Amy Gascon, and acted by various improv actors around Grand Rapids. Actors included Maleny Crespo, Steve Crockett, Dom Damron, Lis Hatfield, Tom Maier, Lissa Marques, Will Oltman, and Tasha Oltman.

The characters really did come to life that night, and it was a joy to see how encouraged the kids were. “It was inspiring because I got to see my character in action,” said Sanaa, a 4th grader at the CYC who created Poopy Polka Dot Panies. “I love the CYC because you get to hang out with your friends and sometimes when you have a story and another person has a story, you can put that story together and make a bigger story.”

The collaboration between the CYC and the improv actors created a bigger story, just like Sanaa said she does at the CYC.

“With improv you’re always building off what other people have done, and we’re doing that with their characters,” said Tasha Oltman, who narrated. “They’ll be the next comedic geniuses.”

“I don’t think any of us would have been up there if we weren’t encouraged by someone at some point,” said Will Oltman. "The Characters that Lived" is just one step in the CYC’s goal to prepare kids for life’s adventures by amplifying their voices and supporting their writing.

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