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When kids play White House

Hillsboro theater group offers election year farce for kids


Twelve-year-old Judson Moon is playing video games when his genius of a best friend Lane Brainard — emphasis on the “Brain” — convinces Moon to run for president. The pitch: a kid could do a much better job than the two grownups set to run.

With Brainard heading the election operation and June Syers, the sweet and wise old lady from across the street, as Moon's running mate, the two wage a political campaign — Moon and June for President! — on Judson's front lawn, raising money for the “Lemonade Party.”

But when the sixth-grade candidate gains unexpected popularity, Moon fears he may be in over his head. Can he find the courage and responsibility required to become our nation's commander-in-chief?

Starring David Van Dyke as Judson Moon, Caleb Inman as Lane Brainard and Jeannette Noble as Mrs. Syers, STAGES Performing Arts Youth Academy presents The Kid Who Ran for President on Oct. 5-7 and Oct. 12-14 at Hillsboro Artist's Repertory Theater (HART).

Portland-raised Linfield graduate William DeBicarri directs this witty and adventurous farce, written by Dan Gutman in 2000 and adapted into a musical by Jeremiah Clay as his first play coaching kids in the performing arts.

Not sure what to expect of his first directing experience, DeBicarri now says he'd be happy to teach youth theater again. “I love the fact that my cast is so willing to be positive and energetic and willing to go there — wherever 'there' may be,” he said.

After graduating from McMinville's Linfield College in 2010 with a degree in theater arts, DeBicarri completed a two-year study at Santa Monica's Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts before returning to Portland to live and work.

DeBicarri had been coaching youth sports — baseball, basketball and football — prior to performing arts. He draws useful parallels from coaching on the field to directing inside the theater.

His biggest challenge as a first-time director? Balancing a 40-hour work week at Men's Wearhouse while putting in the full-time effort and energy of running a 75-minute children's musical.

DeBiccari says the musical that cast kids aged 11 to 17 is less about the awesomely unreasonable ideas a kid might implement if elected president and more about about responsibility and not biting off more than you can chew.

Aside from teaching standard acting techniques and exercises, to prepare the young pupils for presidency DeBiccari had kids reciting presidential speeches, past and present — from Obama's speech for the Democratic National Convention to Nixon's post-Watergate scandal resignation speech.

“I wanted them to build characters they feel comfortable with and feel free to make decisions that can be used for their character,” said DeBicarri. “And, give them freedom as far as what the play should be.”

With the help of the show's Associate Director, Grace Beckett, and Choreographer Kanon Havens, DeBiccari cast The Kid Who Ran for President in two nights of auditions.

The musical's main characters were easy cast choices. David Van Dyke, who plays Judson Moon, is a natural actor, said DeBiccari. “He is talented in the sense that he doesn’t have to rely on gimmicks or quirks,” he said. “He can deliver, and there is a strong stage presence about him.”

Caleb Inman, who plays Lane Brainard's character, “also has a stage presence about him that kind of screamed,” said DeBiccarri. “It's been wonderful working with my cast.”



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