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Troupe performs vaudeville shows in Scotland

by: Submitted Photo Annie Johnson with the Krayon Kids Travel Troupe recently went to the Aberdeen Youth Festival in Scotland.

Most kids like to be entertained. And then there are the entertainers. From dancing to singing to flying trapeze, some local kids have found a love for the stage.

Several students from Lake Oswego and West Linn were part of the Krayon Kids Travel Troupe that recently went to the Aberdeen Youth Festival in Scotland.

Twenty-two talented youngsters between the ages of 9 and 19 went on the trip. Two of them were Annie Johnson, 12, a Waluga Junior High School student, and Lauren Huttula, 14, a West Linn High School freshman.

Krayon Kids Director Dianne Kohlmeier said the kids are selected for the Travel Troupe based on the time they've been involved with Krayon Kids, their energy, their stage presence and their talent. She said she looks for kids who can handle themselves both on and off the stage.

'It's exactly what you would think of somebody representing the U.S.,' she said.

Johnson has been with the Krayon Kids since she was in the third grade. She loves to dance, sing and act, but mostly dance. She loves hip-hop, lyrical (a kind of 'flowy jazz') and ballet.

Huttula has been in the program for seven years.

Both girls returned from the 18-day trip to Scotland with tons of stories, good memories and lots of new friends.

Around 30 countries were represented at the festival, including the United Kingdom, Jordan, Norway, Iceland and even Uganda.

'It's very flavorful,' said Kohlmeier. 'We bring the Broadway flavor, which is always a crowd pleaser.'

The Krayon Kids vaudeville-like show was called, 'The American Express.' The performances in the show took the audience on a ride across America, including stops in Portland, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans, the West and Washington, D.C. The acts included musical instruments, gymnastics, dancing, singing and even a trapeze.

'I write the shows around the talent that's presented to us,' said Kohlmeier. 'I like to focus on the talent that walks through the door.'

Some of the performances included cheerleading, the hula and the use of black lights. Costumes ranged from southern belles to fireflies to chickens.

The troupe conducts its rapid costume changes onstage during the show. Each performer has a box with 10 costumes and 18 costume pieces, said Johnson.

One of her favorite acts was the circus number during the Las Vegas stop.

'I love it when we are all performing together,' she said, adding that she got to be a clown and she loves being silly.

Huttula preferred the black light number. All the participants dressed in neon colors and glowed in the dark. She was a butterfly with neon wings. Huttula liked how the piece was choreographed.

'There's a lot going on at once,' she said.

The troupe performed 10 times at several venues in Aberdeen, including a theater that was in a castle. Besides performing and rehearsing, the kids watched performances from other groups and countries.

'It was definitely inspiring,' said Huttula. 'It was amazing to see how all the people around the world came to one place because we had the same passion.'

The troupe lived a real performer's life, late nights with performances and fun, and early mornings of rehearsals.

'I'm a professional sleeper now,' declared Johnson, adding that she can fall asleep anywhere now except in a bed.

The girls said they enjoy being in Krayon Kids because of the opportunities and the originality of the program. Every show the Krayon Kids puts on is new.

'Every show is original,' said Johnson. 'You never know what to expect.'

'From the costumes to the choreography, its something no one has ever seen before,' added Huttula.

Krayon Kids is a nonprofit musical theater company located in Portland, run completely by volunteers who have a passion for the arts.

'I have some great people who really work hard to keep this thing going,' said Kohlmeier. 'It's been a real family-run operation.'

Other local teens from the area who were part of the Travel Troupe include Adriane Davey, 17, West Linn High School; Blair Hogan, 17, West Linn High School; Genevieve Ackerman, 14, Saint Mary's but West Linn resident; Olivia Klugman, 14, West Linn High School; Mackenzie Larson, 17, West Linn High School; and Devon Murray, 18, 2011 West Linn High School graduate.

The Krayon Kids' fall show, 'Foiled - A Frantic Fairy Tale About Villains Experiencing Failure' premieres in November. Tickets go on sale Sunday, Sept. 25.

For more information about Krayon Kids or to purchase tickets, visit www.krayonkids.org or call 503-656-6099.