This holiday season the Motor City Youth Theatre presents a new, original story based on Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. “In Search of a Christmas Carol,” Motor City Youth Theatre Co-Founder and Artistic Director Nancy Florkowski’s unique take on Dickens’ classic Christmas story, follows four modern-day kids who visit a museum and discover the original Charles Dickens manuscript of “A Christmas Carol” and magically enter the world within Dickens’ story.
One Detroit Arts & Culture producer Sarah Smith sat down with Florkowski and several actors involved with “In Search of a Christmas Carol” to talk about youth theater’s mission to produce theatrical performances while also giving youth a place to improve their speaking, reading, dance, music and life skills, as well as their self-expression and confidence. “In Search of a Christmas Carol” is being performed 2-4 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Motor City Youth Theatre in Livonia, Michigan.
Unknown Speaker 1: I have a lot of fun when I’m on stage.
Delilah, Actor, Motor City Youth Theater: I like theater because of all the amazing people, and I have fun here.
Nancy Florkowski, Co-Founder & Artistic Director, Motor City Youth Theater: Every kid wants to do acting. They want to be on TV and movies and everything. And yet they might be fearful that, Oh, I can’t do that. This place allows anybody to join us. And that’s what we tell parents, no experience is great, and that’s the best place to start.
Jocelyn, Actor, Motor City Theater: Motor City Youth Theater has been very professional and it’s powerful. It’s a way to speak out to children who don’t really have a spot where they fit in. They can come here and they can be somebody different.
Nancy Florkowski: The mission of Motor City Theater is to allow all kids, anybody that wants to do theater is welcome to do it. We audition with kids, but it’s usually auditioning within the show. They’re already accepted. Even if we have too many kids, we write in parts for them.
Michael Micheletti, Actor & Acting Coach, Motor City Youth Theater: I think theater can really help teach people empathy and other skills that aren’t taught in school because it’s so freeform. A lot of these kids may not go to the same schools. They may have different life situations and things going on and for them to all interact and come together, it can be great.
Will, Actor & Student Assistant, Motor City Youth Theater: In school, I was very quiet, very introverted, so I wasn’t really that social with everyone. But the only thing that I really found joy in was movies and acting. So my mom contacted Nancy Florkowski, and they’re like, “Sure, we’ll take them in right away.” And I’m like, “No auditions or anything?”. Nope. So I tried it and I loved it. For the past six years, I’ve just been doing this and it’s really given me a sense of belonging, really. Like, it’s wonderful.
Another thing it’s done is like, it’s really brought out my confidence, especially now in high school. I have a lot of friends now and it really, really brings out your personality.
Michael Micheletti: I think it makes them more willing to ask questions and communicate, and it just fosters this ability to relate to other individuals.
Will: Kids who grow up and are afraid to speak up, they’re nervous. They’re just scared. And I think all they need is to have someone to tell them, “Hey, your word matters just as much as the person next to you.” So, if you come here and you go on that stage, there’s no one that’s going to judge you.
Nancy Florkowski: Everything we do is educational. And so, the kids are learning as they do this. In the beginning, we asked which kids have ever seen Christmas Carol. Hardly any of them have ever seen it.
Michael Micheletti: The production that we’re working on right now is, “In Search Of A Christmas Carol”. It is a retelling or a rethinking of the original story. The original story is still there but Nancy’s added this new part where it’s about four explorers coming into a museum and discovering Christmas Carol. This coincides very nicely with a lot of the kids who had never, ever seen “A Christmas Carol” before. It’s a lot of fun and it’s cool to see all these, you know, famous and classic characters being played by young adults and young actors.
Nancy Florkowski: “In search Af A Christmas Carol”. It’s the traditional Christmas carol but with a little bit of additional information. It’s about four kids who go to a museum and discover the original Dickens manuscript, which is in the museum, and they read from it a little bit. And as they’re reading, things come to life and they disappear and they’re in and out of the audience watching and reading some of Dickens’s actual dialog.
We have all kid actors except for Michael Micheletti. He’s playing Scrooge. Our youngest just turned six, and she’s one of the Cratchit. We’ve got kids playing. The spirit’s the ghost of Christmas present, past, and future. It’s the whole Christmas Carol cast of various ages.
Michael Micheletti: Every single production that I’ve been a part of here at Motor City Youth Theater has been probably the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. It’s a lot of fun to see them grow as we go through the production, and they’re just a lot of fun to be a part of. So like, I couldn’t imagine anything better than this.
Jocelyn: I love it. It’s so much fun. It’s definitely work, but in the end, it’s going to be amazing.
Nancy Florkowski: We want people just to be thrilled and impressed with the kids and how hard they work and just get a good feeling.
Jocelyn: If you really want to do theater, then the Motor City Youth Theater is definitely an amazing option. It’s so much fun. You’re going to make a lot of friends. I came here and I could be somebody different. I could go into somebody else’s skin. I could be somebody who I wasn’t. And I could– all my problems in my life floated away.
Will: Nancy, I love her dearly. She’s really given me a really a second home here. And I think that’s really her goal.
Delilah: Nancy’s the best and everybody else. All the teachers, they’re really nice to us and kind. And I love all the teachers here. Like all of them.
Jocelyn: The motivation and the inspiring words that they say to me and all the other cast members, it’s really helpful.
Nancy Florkowski: I am proud. And I always just figure like this is my goal in life, is to do what I’m doing. It Keeps me going, keeps me moving. So, I love it. And we just would love everybody to be a part of it.
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