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Seussical Jr.

'Seussical Jr.'

• Theater: Abby Hobson plays the Cat in the Hat and Becca Emry is Mayzie la Bird in the Albany Civic Theater Youth Camp production of "Seussical Jr." The production continues its run this weekend at the Albany theater. For information: albanycivic.org.

Horton the elephant is having a hard time.

First he can't convince any of his jungle friends that he heard voices coming from a speck of dust on a small clover flower. And now he's stuck sitting on an egg while the egg's featherbrained mother takes the world's longest vacation.

Still, an elephant's faithful — 100%. And so are the student thespians at ACT Youth Camp who will present Horton's tale this month as part of "Seussical Jr."

The show, a musical montage of stories penned by children's author Dr. Seuss, opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Albany Civic Theater, 111 First Ave. Additional showings will be 7:30 p.m. Saturday and on Aug. 23 and 24, with 2:30 p.m. matinees Aug. 17 and 24.

Tickets are $10 per person. The show lasts about an hour and is suitable for all audiences.

Now in its fourth year, ACT Youth Camp is an opportunity for students ages 8 to 18 to learn everything about putting on a play.

Adults lead the way: Rebecca Douglas is the camp director, assisted by Mirinda Keeling as technical mentor, Alyson Fewless as music director and several others. But the campers themselves run the show — literally. In just three weeks, they put together everything from props, sets, lights, sound and hairstyles, in addition to memorizing lines and choreography.

It takes teamwork to present a show, along with creativity, problem-solving, communication, time management and plenty of other skills teachers dream of infusing in their young charges, said Kristin Jones, the show's choreographer.

That's part of what makes the camp such a valuable experience, she said. "All of that is something they can take back to schools and use to their advantage."

At the same time, the campers themselves are developing the self-confidence to perform in front of others, making new friends and sometimes discovering an avocation they didn't know they had.

Gabriel Benfield, 15, of Albany is back for his second summer at camp and also had a part in the theater's regular season production of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." He has especially enjoyed developing his own evil laugh for his "Seussical" character, Vlad Vladikoff, and said he'll definitely be back again next summer.

"It's just really fun to be in plays," he said.

Jesse Leffler, 10, plays Jojo, the smallest Who in Whoville. He had his first camp experience at 8 and liked it so much he came back with his family. Sister Mia, 12, is now part of the stage crew and mom Krisi is among the camp's adult volunteers.

Krisi said she thought her son would be too nervous to audition his first time out. "Then he got up there and sang and he hasn't stopped," she said.

Jesse said he still gets nervous, although he knows everyone else around him is, too, so "I just go with it." But mostly, he said, acting "gives me, like, stress relief. Just putting my mind to something else."

In some ways, "Seussical" is like school, Jesse and the volunteers agreed. There are mean-girl divas like the Sour Kangaroo and the Young Kangaroo (played respectively by Emily Hobson and Nicki Ito), people who shirk their duties like Mayzie La Bird (Becca Emry) and bullies like the Wickersham Brothers (Adam Keeling, Thor Halichishick, Jerrod Vester, Brock Neill, Kennedy Sell and Alayna Hammer).

But there are also people like Horton (Kasper O'Neill), who choose to do the right thing despite the pressure, and Gertrude McFuzz (Mia Fisk) who stands by him.

"Sometimes it's easier to just walk away, and he (Horton) chooses not to," said Douglas, the director. "We need more of that these days: just choosing kindness."

And, as the Kangaroos find out, it's possible to be mistaken — and to improve because of it, Douglas added. That's a lesson she wants both her campers and their audiences to take away.

"It is entirely for you to change your mind," she said, "admit that you were wrong and go forth and do better."

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