With new partnership, Burrillville theater casts for live performance of ‘Into the Woods Jr.’


BURRILLVILLE – It’s a musical fairytale about the wishes and choices people make as told by young actors – and it is coming to a theater in Burrillville this August.

The Assembly Theatre and Inspiration Performing Arts Company have announced the production of, “Into the Woods Jr.,” and are now accepting virtual auditions for the show.

It will be an intensive summer learning experience for the young thespians who take part, and the theater’s first live post-pandemic production of 2021. The full-scale musical featuring professional costuming, lighting, sound, and direction is open to performers ages 12-21, and will be held at the East Avenue venue August 6 through 8.

Inspiration founder Emily Garven said the show, an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s groundbreaking Broadway musical, was chosen for both its difficulty level, and its small cast, as pandemic-mandated restrictions on live theater have been in flux.

“We wanted to make sure we could accommodate the cast based on whatever restrictions were in place at the time,” said Garven. “It’s a really wonderful musical, and it’s pretty complicated.”

With the restrictions on gatherings closing down live performance venues over the past year, Garven’s non-profit Massachusetts-based troupe has offered streaming theater to virtual audiences, including a production of, “Godspell,” filmed in Burrillville earlier this year. Inspiration sold tickets for audiences to view the musical online, and also held an event where local guests could watch it inside the Assembly Theatre on a large screen, and have a chance to meet the cast.

“It was a very unique experience,” said Garven, who noted that the event, which served as a “soft opening,” for the 354-seat venue, gave the Godspell cast a chance to hear reactions from the audience. “It felt like that live experience we haven’t had in so long. It went really well.”

So well, in fact, that Garven decided to collaborate with Patrons of the Assembly, the non-profit group that runs the venue, on a second production – this time to be viewed in-person.

And, “Into the Woods Jr.,” she said, will make an ideal return for young, local talent hungry to jump back into acting.

“We wanted to do something challenging,” Garven said. “We wanted people to feel that they’re being pushed to be their best after a whole year off.”

Patrons chairperson Holly Dumaine-Picard noted that she has known Garven for years, but the partnership between the two blossomed after Dumaine-Picard’s daughter was cast in a performance of Inspiration’s “13,” just before the pandemic.

“She fell in love with the production team, and it brought her to a new level in her theater career,” Dumaine-Picard said of her daughter’s experience. “We thought this was a great opportunity for everyone.”

“A lot of kids gravitate toward Emily,” Dumaine-Picard added. “She’s a great role model for our kids.”

The respect, and passion for working together to make something great, it seems, is mutual.

“I think it’s really great that Holly is able to combine her business skills with theatrical knowledge,” Garven said, noting that during the filming of Godspell, “She was there with us every night smiling and supporting us.”

For Garven, the venue was also part of the lure.

“It’s a beautiful space. The theater itself has such a classy and classic look to it,” she said. “It also has some of that charm you only find in older venues.”

“Into the Woods Jr.,” may be just the start of what’s to come from the creative collaboration. Garven noted that with few competing venues, the Burrillville theater draws in people who otherwise might not be able to access live performances, and outdoor space overlooking Harrisville Dam opens up many additional opportunities.

“We text each other ideas daily,” said Dumaine-Picard. “Emily has so much to offer.”

“We’d love to continue this partnership for many years to come,” said Garven.

Instructions to submit a virtual audition for Into the Wild Jr., can be found via the submission form here, and are due by Sunday, May 30 at 11:59 p.m. Cast members will be contacted and notified by June 3, and rehearsals will begin June 7.  There is a $300 production fee to cover the cost of training and production-related expenses, but if the fee is a financial burden, a few scholarship and internship options may be available by contacting info@inspirationperformingarts.com.

Questions about the musical can be directed to the stage manager at intothewoodsjr2021@gmail.com.

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