Teens given opportunity to direct youth theater shows


BROWNSTOWN — Addison Bumbleburg and Therese Hauersperger have lost count of how many theater productions they have been involved in over the years.

Between Jackson County Community Theatre, school and competitions, the two girls have spent a lot of time onstage playing a variety of characters and wearing a variety of costumes.

Never before had they directed the whole shebang.

The JCCT board agreed the time was right for Bumbleburg, 18, and Hauersperger, 17, to take that next step.

“The youth is so important to us to develop them, to put them in roles of leadership, giving them a director position but also teaching them from front to back what to do with a show because we want our theater to continue, and they are our future,” said Karen Haas, the board’s vice president.

Board President Stacey Williams said they envisioned having kids grow through the program and have some kind of penultimate experience to draw on after the fact.

JCCT used to do a teen show in the winter, but it was directed by an adult volunteer. In 2021, board member Paul Keller suggested having two experienced teens direct one-act shows for Jackson County Young Artists’ Theatre, which is for kids in elementary through high school.

Last year, John Ortman and Clare Hauersperger, Therese’s sister, took on that role.

“We finally had a class of kids who it felt like they were ready for that. It was time,” Williams said.

This year, Addison and Therese were chosen for the directing roles. Williams and Haas are serving as their mentors.

“As a mentor, it’s kind of the same thing as being a parent,” Haas said. “You see your kid doing something and you immediately want to be like, ‘Wait’ and correct them, but then you have to kind of let them fly. We’re used to seeing them onstage and not in this type of role.”

Williams’ day job is teaching, and she said seeing the teens direct makes her teacher heart proud.

“I love seeing the confidence,” she said. “Confidence is so key to theater and just a lifelong skill that is going to serve them in so many ways. The organization and the working together as a team and being able to play well with others, it’s a collaborative art. I think it’s a great experience for the kids.”

Bumbleburg is directing “The Mysterious Case of the Missing Ring” by Janie Downey Maxwell, and Hauersperger is directing “The Magician’s Nephew” adapted by Aurand Harris.

Both shows will be presented at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Royal Off-the-Square Theatre, 121 W. Walnut St., Brownstown. Tickets are $9 and may be purchased online at tktassist.com/Tix/?u=JCCT.

In the first show, the royal ring is missing, and the queen won’t sleep until the royal detectives — all 13 of them — find it. The production features 18 actors.

The second show is an adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic and first installment of “The Chronicles of Narnia” book series. It follows young Digory and his friend, Polly, using magic rings on a series of adventures through mythical kingdoms and enchanted lands. It only has six actors.

While directing a show had never crossed her mind, Bumbleburg said she was very excited when the opportunity was offered to her last fall.

“I went into a lot of planning,” she said. “It was a very interesting experience for me because I’ve only been onstage as an actress, so to see the behind the scenes trying to figure out what set I wanted, what costumes and all that, it was a very enlightening experience for me.”

Most of her years of acting have been at JCCT, but she also has done shows from sixth grade all the way through her time at Trinity Lutheran High School in Seymour, where she’s now a senior.

Stepping into the director role, Bumbleburg said she’s a lot more focused on the overall show.

“When I’m acting, I only have to worry about my character and my portrayal onstage. I work on making the director’s portrayal happen,” she said.

“Now, I’m the one that has to come up with what I want to see onstage, and I have to convey that to my characters,” she said. “I have to tell them what it is I want to see from them, so it’s a very different dynamic having to explain to them what it is I’m trying to get out of their performance and also just to get the vision as a whole with the set and set pieces and all that.”

Bumbleburg said she never knew how sound and lighting work before this opportunity, so that’s another bonus. Putting it all together has been a great learning experience.

“I’ve also learned how to teach other kids and other actors in general how to convey certain emotions or project louder onstage that I never would have thought I would be able to teach kids,” she said. “It also has been a lot of fun for me to look into costumes and make that vision come to life. It’s a lot of time management, a lot of planning that I’ve learned coming from this experience.”

Hauersperger has done acting for 10 years and said she was surprised she was asked to be a director at her age.

“I was honestly really hesitant toward taking it because I wasn’t a senior and I felt like another year would probably be good,” she said. “But then I just thought, ‘You know what? Get it done this year. You never know what’s going to happen.’ I thought it would be interesting because I’ve done a lot of different roles throughout the theater, and I thought it would be interesting to take on directing. That’s why I did it is just out of curiosity of what it was like.”

She, too, has gained a lot of experience in other aspects of theater.

“You don’t have to learn lines, and once the stage is set and once the actors are set, a lot of the pressure is off you,” Hauersperger said. “It’s more on your set crew and your backstage, and it’s on your actors. It’s your responsibility leading up to that point. That’s what I think is the biggest change, more of a leadership position.”

Both teens appreciate all of the youth who have stepped up to put in the work to present the shows to the public.

“I am very proud of all of them. They have done an incredible job. A lot of them, it’s their first show. It’s incredible to see how far they’ve come,” Bumbleburg said.

“Honestly, the thing that has made this production has been the cast. My actors are just amazing. I love them so much,” Hauersperger said. “Then my family has helped out so much. My dad is doing lights, my sister is stage manager, my mom is costumer and my brother is doing sound.”

Even though she’s graduating from high school in the spring, Bumbleburg said she may not be done with theater. She’s going to DePauw University in Greencastle to major in music and may look into the theater offerings.

“I would love to continue to do musical theater and other plays and such,” she said. “If I was offered the opportunity to direct, I know I would definitely take it, but after this experience, I’ve also learned acting is still my big passion. But I do very much enjoy directing more than I ever thought I would.”

If you go 

What: Jackson County Young Artists’ Theatre’s one-act productions of “The Mysterious Case of the Missing Ring” and “The Magician’s Nephew”

When: 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Royal Off-the-Square Theatre, 121 W. Walnut St., Brownstown

Tickets: $9; available online at tktassist.com/Tix/?u=JCCT

Directors: Addison Bumbleburg for “The Mysterious Case of the Missing Ring” and Therese Hauersperger for “The Magician’s Nephew”

Mentors: Stacey Williams and Karen Haas

Casts: Elise Cave, Elaina Cave, Jane Deweese, Lincoln Vest, Olivia Keller, Isabella Campbell, Jonathan Neawedde, Jack Charlton, Emily Keller, Kameron Williams, Alyssa Haas, Annie Keller, Haley Bumbleburg, Sabrina Long, Izzy McGill, Lilly Charlton, Mailey Copeland and Viviana Wilson for “The Mysterious Case of the Missing Ring;” Mason Williams, Brylee Deuser, Destiny Long, Landon Whitson, Eugene Cave and Esther Cave for “The Magician’s Nephew”

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