The five young actors in “The Top Job!” are 10 to 12 years old.
Four are fifth-graders, and the other is a fourth-grader.
The students are close not just in age. They also get along well.
“It's really fun meeting all these fun people from different schools, and they share the things that I like to do, like dancing and acting,” said fifth-grader Jonah Kost.
Jonah and castmate Michael Garofalo go to Aberdeen Roncalli. Aberdeen Christian and Simmons Elementary also supply students for the Aberdeen Community Theatre production, which opens tonight. The cast also includes four adults.
Brian T. Schultz, who directs and acts in “The Top Job!,” likes the rapport of the cast members, not only onstage, but off.
“I'm a firm believer that rapport with castmates does in some way translate into your relationship onstage,” Schultz said.
An actor who doesn't get along with a fellow performer thinks it doesn't matter. He's a professional, he said. Audiences won't be able to sense the hostility.
Schultz doesn't buy it.
“I can always tell there's something off there,” he said.
Schultz is used to working with young actors as director of Storybook Land Theatre. But “The Top Job!” is different in that Schultz is able to spend an extended time with the cast. He has spent about six weeks with the “Top Job” cast because it’s a competition show. After performances in Aberdeen March 19 and 20, the show was named best South Dakota play at a festival in Fargo, N.D., March 22-24. The ACT cast is preparing to return to Fargo for the regional competition April 25-28, and will perform five shows this week for Aberdeen audiences beginning at 7:30 tonight.
Schultz likes working in small groups and one-on-one with the cast.
“The Top Job!” has fewer kids than a Storybook Land play, so Schultz has more time to work with them. “The real trick is trying to push them just a smidge farther than they think they can go” while still keeping it fun, he said.
“I adore all of those kids. Every day I work with them, I'm reminded of why I do this,” Schultz said. “It's such a blessing to get to work with them.”
While watching the youngsters perform, it might be easy to forget they're kids. But they are. In Fargo, the young actors were very excited about using the hotel’s pool. One of Jonah's best memories from the trip involves having candy and pop at 7 a.m. on the way to Fargo.
The youngsters are also very quotable.
“My dad says that I was basically made for the stage,” said Abigail Yates, who plays Jenna.
Abigail, 11, is a good singer.
“She's got a very lovely voice for somebody that young,” Schultz said.
Michael, 10, plays a 4-year-old character named Teddy, who is Jenna's brother. Michael said Teddy bounces off the walls and doesn't have many responsibilities.