Kids on Stage showcases "HEAL" by drive-in

Amber Johnson, 11, of Hookerton joins fellow “HEAL” cast members during rehearsals.

SNOW HILL — In a first- of-its-kind performance, Kids on Stage will offer a theatrical drive-in experience today and Saturday with its production of “HEAL.”

“HEAL is a musical celebration of humanity and starts a conversation about what our world will need to begin healing post-COVID-19,” said Kids on Stage founder and artistic director Parker Harris.

Harris was inspired to write and create the musical following the COVID-19 pandemic, which began gaining momentum in the United States during Kids on Stage’s production of “Into the Woods Jr.”

Thinking the pandemic would dissipate quickly, Harris proceeded with plans for Kids on Stage’s summer program featuring a production of High School Musical and Moana Jr. When it was evident COVID-19 would linger, Harris changed direction in a way that shed light on the pandemic.

The play features real-life stories of people from the pandemic gained from the collective perspectives of the cast and community members.

“We were on Zoom all of May and June working on what it means to heal and how to tell that story,” Harris said, adding the story includes a narrative of being kind and having connections with a purpose.

“It’s a story about real stories and real things that are happening right now. It explores how we heal after this,” Harris said.

The musical tells the story of COVID-19 through several perspectives, including a teacher whose students left suddenly for the year to be taught online and a hospital where the reality of COVID-19 is felt every day.

“HEAL” features familiar songs like “Rise Up” by Andra Day and “You Got A Friend In Me” by Randy Newman along with songs from Michael Jackson and Thomas Rhett.

“HEAL is sure to touch lives and leave the audience with joy and love in their hearts,” Harris said.

Also unique in its nature, “HEAL” was written with the pandemic and its safety restrictions in mind.

“We knew that it was going to be performed in the middle of a pandemic so we wrote the show so we could practice social distancing, sanitation and limiting (props),” Harris said.

For their “Into the Woods Jr.” production, Kids on Stage had to limit the auditorium’s capacity to under 100 people, including the 30 cast members, following its opening night performance March 13.

Not wanting to limit participation, Harris decided to offer the musical drive-in style.

Performers will perform the play on the steps of Greene Central High School’s Music Building while the audience watches from their vehicles.

The audience will tune in to a local FM channel on the radio to hear the performance.

To prepare for the performance, rehearsals have taken place on ZOOM with in-person rehearsal occurring the week of the performance. This has taken true commitment for the actors and their parents, Harris said.

“Our fantastic crew and parents have been amazing to work with. Everyone has been committed and happy to help,” Harris said.

“I think it is a true testament to the parents of the cast and the crew.”

Kids on Stage was founded by Harris in 2015 and operates as a youth community theater based in Snow Hill.

“We pride ourselves on the simple fact that “Everyone Is A Star,” meaning that every part and every actor is essential to the success of the show” Harris said. “That means that every child that signs up is a part of the show.

“We believe that participating in live theater builds problem-solving skills, teamwork, creativity, literacy, and confidence. We believe in the power of theater to change lives,” Harris said.

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