"This is just some of the kids," quipped STARS 2000 founder Diane Kamrin, "You should see how warm it gets when they're all here."
STARS 2000 is a teen acting program that operates independently under the umbrella of the Diablo Theater Company (the artists formerly known as the Diablo Light Opera Company). The group puts on two performances per year, one in January and the other in late July. In addition to being the founder, Kamrin acts as producer for many of the shows and in "Guys and Dolls" she also wears the choreographer and music director hats.
A long-time member of the DTC theater group, in 1991 Kamrin noticed that there was a shortage of theater programs geared toward younger actors.
"I had done a lot of teen theater in the area. I realized that there are kids who really love theater and can spend more time doing it in the summer than during the school year because of time commitments," she explained.
The theater company's board gave their blessing and the STARS 2000 program was born. Initially, it ran only during the summer months with one show that would have a two week run. Now they have expanded to twice annual performances, giving that much more opportunity for young theater buffs to cut their teeth on the stage.
In order to take part in the STARS performances, actors must be between the ages of 13 and 20 year old. Younger performers are directed to take part in DTC's children's theater program called Firehouse Rocks, while those older than 20 are directed to be a part of the main company. Kamrin said they have some members who have worked their way all the way through from the kids program to the main company.
Two of the cast members of "Guys and Dolls" are working their way through the programs at DTC. Allison Garavaglia and Lindsey Scanlon, both of Danville have both been in other parts of the troupe.
"I first started when I was around 10," said Garavaglia, now 16 and a Junior at Carondelet. "I saw my sister on stage and I just thought it was so cool. I wanted to do that but I was too young." Garavaglia first got hit the stage in the children's program and has now been in three shows with STARS 2000.
Scanlon, on the other hand, started with STARS 2000 and has since been in two shows with the main company. The 18-year-old recent graduate of The Athenian School is a dedicated thespian, planning to continue her studies of drama while attending Loyola-Marymount in Los Angeles this fall.
But being in the company is not all spotlights and accolades. There's a lot of hard work involved. The cast rehearses five to six days a week, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. In addition, there is a $250 tuition to be in the show to cover costs of putting on the program. On top of that, the actors are asked to help out in other ways, like building the set, gathering props or finding costumes.
This hectic schedule goes on for five week, Kamrin said, and then they get to move out of the firehouse and into their venue. In many cases the troupe performs at Diablo Valley College, but this year, because of a scheduling conflict they'll be taking the stage at San Ramon Valley High School.
"We call that tech week," said Kamrin. "They'll be on stage Monday through Thursday, but it's a really different experience. There's props and sets and costume changes." And because STARS 2000 has a policy of double-casting (where two different sets of actors are cast for certain roles), that means those performers are only on stage for half the time before the curtain goes up on July 24.
It is a grueling pace that hones the acting and sharpens the dance moves before opening night. The cast will do eight performances at SRVHS. Kamrin said as hectic as it is, she absolutely working with young actors.
"It's noisy, that's for sure, but I have to tell you that I love them," she said. "It's the most rewarding thing. Any teacher will tell you that you learn more from your students than they ever learn from you."
The show begins on July 24 and ends on August 2. Tickets and information on the show at www.dloc.org/youththeatre/stars2000.html .