Yocum Institute Teens present “The Commedia Rapunzel” at Berks County libraries for the Summer Reading Program.

The teen actors presented their play recently at Kutztown Community Library to an audience of children and parents, grandparents.

“There’s a lot of great comedic elements to it and it’s a lot of fun because the commedia is like an old Italian style of theater that doesn’t get shown very often, even though it has inspired the Marx Brothers and a lot of sitcoms,” said Nate Houck, 16, of Wyomissing, who portrayed the Prince. “It’s a lot of fun to show off a different style.”

Kathryn Grey, 16, of Reading, portrayed multiple roles including the Father and the Royal Stead.

“It’s a fun show. Kid’s shows can be sort of goofy and acting is fun and stories are meant to be shared,” she said.

Grey likes being a part of the Yocum Teens.

“It’s just really accepting and you sort of feel at home and nobody’s excluded,” said Grey.

Morgan Debiec, 15, Sinking Spring, portrayed multiple roles as well, including Rosetta, Mother Gothel, the Mom, the Troll Under the Bridge, part of the Ogre, and the Old Peasant Woman.

“It’s fun for me because I don’t normally get to play characters that change costumes so much. It’s nice to learn how to change costume quickly and it’s also fun because I like meeting the kids afterward,” said Debiec. “I personally like how you can go on stage and be whoever and be someone different from who you are and still have a good time and get to learn how that type of person is. It’s a lot of fun.”

Sarah Lala, 17, Oley Valley, portrayed the characters Columbine, Rapunzel, and the Ghostly Knight of Nothing.

“Yocum, I love that they’re all about education and children and they just love giving,” said Lala. “It’s really an incredible experience working with them. I love it.”

She hopes the children in the audience get a sense of magic.

“Things are not exactly as they look, because you think the witch is really nice but she’s really not,” said Lala. “I like that a lot about it.”

Lala said she is having a really good time working with the Yocum Teens.

“We got really close and we’re all really good friends now. I just really like it a lot,” she said.

Beverly Houck, artistic director at the Yocum Institute for Arts Education, said the Rapunzel show is presented by the Teen Theater Scholarship Ensemble, which includes students from all over Berks County that audition to be a part of the cast for Yocum’s shows.

“We are performing at pretty much every Berks County public library (this summer),” said Houck.

The Friends of the Berks County Public Libraries underwrites the show for the Summer Reading Program. The director of the show is Joel Gori. Houck organizes the costumes, sets, rehearsal schedule and manages the teen cast in set up and tear down at performances.

“What I love for the teen actors is that for those who are thinking of doing this as a career, it’s probably one of the closest things they’ll get to the real life of an up and coming actor that has to deal with touring and scheduling and all of the craziness, thinking on your feet, interacting with an audience,” said Houck. “Also, I just love the partnership with the libraries. The collaboration has always worked. This year we were able to choose a really fun show.”

Houck said they always try to choose a show based on children’s books.

“Classically, when theater started people were doing stories they already knew and that’s part of the commedia art form they were doing,” she said, noting that it’s wonderful that the children are familiar with the story of Rapunzel but this presents show presents the story differently.

Houck hopes the show is great for the community as well.

“I love that because of the Friends we’re able to do something for free and have so many people come experience live theater and that’s huge,” she said.

The Yocum Teens perform 25 shows during the summer, giving the teen cast members a chance to experience performing the same roles again and again versus one weekend of a show, said Houck.

For more information about the Yocum Institute, visit https://institute-of-arts.org.

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