Kidding Around presents electrifying children's play

by Mark Gartsbeyn / Beacon Staff • April 2, 2015

Violet, the protagonist ofthe play Miss Electricity, is an energetic fifth-grade girl who dreams of getting into the Guinness World Records with the help of her “assistant,” Freddy, a precocious kid in the same grade. 

“This morning I read about the legends of the Greek gods!” exclaims Freddy. “I don’t want to read about gods, I want to be one,” responds Violet. “A goddess, or a superhero, or a rockstar—a queen bee. Cleopatra! Or a ninja.”

Miss Electricity was produced by Kidding Around, the only campus group dedicated to theater for young audiences, or TYA. Last semester, the Student Government Association-recognized group performed James and the Giant Peach and Ivy + Bean: The Musical.

“[The play] is very cute, very funny… its kind of out there,” said director Daniel Begin, a junior performing arts major. “It’s definitely a show that gets back to Kidding Around’s mission of doing theater that’s written for children.” 

The play, written by Kathryn Walat, has been produced by over 40 schools and community theaters. Begin said he found the play on a website called Playscripts.

“I just put in the TYA filter, read a bunch of shows, ordered some, and then chose Miss Electricity based on what I thought Kidding Around could use,” said Begin.

The cast of six put on three performances last weekend in the Little Building’s Cabaret, with a running time of about 45 minutes. Each performance played to around 70 people. 

Despite her aspirations, Violet is struggling in school and at home. Her aspirations distract her from her studies, especially her upcoming geography test on state capitals for the eccentric Mrs. Waldo. She also has to deal with two bullies, Billy and Connie, who dress in leather jackets, hold lollipops like cigarettes, and S-P-E-L-L insults out to H-E-R. And on top of all that, Violet’s mother is worried about her—all she wants is to have dinner together like a family, but her daughter never comes home on time. 

“I’m never going to be the world’s greatest anything except at messing things up!” Violet tells Freddy—minutes before getting struck by lightning. Twice. All is well, though; she has a revelation and decides to become Miss Electricity, donning a shiny silver jacket and matching boots, with the power to control all things electric, supposedly. It’s Freddy all along who’s in control, turning off light switches and removing batteries. When Violet ditches him, she learns that she can’t really manipulate forces of nature—and that she shouldn’t manipulate her friends, either.

The show opens with a dance number of the director’s choosing. Begin decided to set the dance to Meghan Trainor’s “Lips are Movin”— he said that the scenic design for Miss Electricity was inspired by the music video for Trainor’s song.

“I liked the colors in the music video, I liked how fast paced it was,” said Begin. “[Miss Electricity] is short and fast and cute… [Trainor] is a weird place to draw inspiration from, but it worked really well. [The play] really feels like a fast-paced music video.”

The influence of the “Lips are Movin” video on the play is apparent, with its high-energy, minimalist set, and primary color scheme. The opening dance features the three narrators, dressed in white tops and colorful, monochromatic bottoms, and the whole play is washed in bright blues, yellows, pinks, and reds.

Begin said that he’s worked with Kidding Around since his first semester at Emerson. It was with Kidding Around that he discovered his passion for directing, when he took charge of The Velveteen Rabbit his sophomore year.

“I spent the entire summer prepping for it, doing background research about the show,” said Begin. “I really discovered that I love casting, sitting through auditions, and picking the right cast.”

Even though the cast of Miss Electricity only had about a month’s worth of rehearsals, Begin said that he began preparing for the show last spring. He said that he used an atypical approach for Miss Electricity; rather than spending the first few weeks around a reading table, he got the cast on their feet right away. By the third rehearsal, all of the movement in the show was set, which gave the actors early freedom to focus on the other aspects of their performance.

“Right away, we could play with character and let it grow and evolve,” said Begin. 

Sophomore Eloise O’Keeffe played the titular role in Miss Electricity, her third Kidding Around show. She said that the show emphasized energy over plot, like many other TYA shows. Despite its kid audience, O’Keeffe said the lessons of friendship, creativity, and power are universal.

“They seem really basic, but it’s those basic lessons that people seem to forget in everyday life,” said O’Keeffe, a performing arts major. 

Dominique Carrieri, a sophomore performing arts major, played the bully Connie and was one of the narrators. Carrieri said that Miss Electricity was her first production with Kidding Around and that it was her first comedic role at Emerson.

“What drew me to the show was how fun and lighthearted it seemed,” said Carrieri. “I love that it’s all about friendship and being genuine and hopeful.”

Carrieri said that the play allowed audience members to reconnect with their younger selves, putting their middle school lives under a microscope. 

“When you talk about how everything seemed so big and how things were such a big deal when you were that age,” said Carrieri, “it really brings you back. And then you start to empathize with that part of yourself… I was really able to stop judging the younger me.”