The Players on the Potomac (POP), a theater group designed for a cast of teens and tweens (those youngsters between say 10 and 13), usually perform in Lansdowne at the Potomac Club.
In 2011, their inaugural production of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” was welcomed with enthusiasm and extended applause.
Then last month they opened their second show “Disney’s Camp Rock” with many of the same actors and again their three performances came away with favorable reaction from those in the audience.
Evidence of the popularity of this group came Aug. 25, the third of the three Camp Rock shows. Rain had rendered the outdoor stage at the Potomac Club an impossibility.
At the last minute, they shifted venues indoors to a community church in Ashburn. Never the less, more than 300 people showed up and the audience grew to beyond capacity.
Wendy Marco, the mastermind, founder and producer of POP has a formidable background. She is a figure skater and skating coach who has given private lessons to some of the Washington Capitals; has been a TV reporter; she acted in several stage shows, after majoring in Communications with a minor in Theater at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, where she graduated in 1991.
With her experience on the stage and as an athlete, she can compare the two.
“In athletics you practice and then perform while in theater it is rare to get stage time; a rare opportunity to get a part.”
She says she came up with the idea of a theater group for youngsters about five years ago. “There was nothing like that in Loudoun County at the time.”
As a result she saw an opportunity to develop young talent. Three years ago she founded POP.
And its success in developing young talent can be borne out by four of the performers: Amanda Hampton, Stephen Coakley who played Charlie Brown, Abby Irons whose first time out was in Camp Rock and Cierra Marco, Wendy’s daughter.
All four have immersed themselves in theater. Each of them has ambitions of someday being on Broadway and having an acting career.
At age 12, Amanda says her favorite actress is Emma Watson, of the “Harry Potter” movies. She is also trying out for her school’s volleyball team but, “would like to keep doing POP. Really fun with my friends.”
Stephen, 15, has been in plays at his high school, Tuscorora. He takes drama there and has been among the cast of “The Crucible.” He says that his school has “state of the art equipment” for staging plays.
He says, “I like singing. I’m most comfortable with it.” His favorite actor is Morgan Freeman. He goes on to express his added attachment to acting, “The cast is like a family.”
Cierra, who at age 14 takes dance classes, echoed that sentiment. “In the beginning everyone is not into it, the theater I mean. But by the end they are really into it.”
It’s understandable with rehearsals taking up three days a week for the entire summer in preparation for Camp Rock.
Cierra says, “My dream is Broadway.” She thinks that singing and acting go together. She went to a week-long camp in New York sponsored by the Broadway Artists Alliance this summer. “I saw the Phantom of the Opera and went back stage and met the cast and Tony Award winners.” Along with the training Cierra and her fellow actors performed before them. She admits to being nervous.
Abby, 15, who likes tap dancing, explains, “Acting runs in our family. I had an aunt who was an actress. I gave it a try and loved it.”
She also aspires to be on Broadway and in films. And about performing with fellow cast members? “Everyone is talented and it’s addictive.”
Marco hasn’t decided on the next show by POP but it will likely be sometime next summer.
Her criteria, “We are careful about selecting plays. Our audiences consist of mostly families with young kids.”
I asked her what a producer actually does? She started ticking off a dizzying list of things: venue, tickets, website, concessions, coordinating costumes, implement director decisions … “Everything but teach the kids.” She explains that most theater groups charge the performers $700 to $1,000 to be in shows to pay for some of the costs. “POP charges a $225 performance fee, specifically to pay for the director.”
Jason Augustowski, drama coach and language arts teacher at Belmont Ridge Middle School, directed “Camp Rock.”
And Wendy Hampton joined with her friend Marco as co-producer of the show.
POP holds auditions and according to Wendy they have more youngsters try out than they have parts for. “We never lack for acting talent.”
“Next year we may try something for older kids. They have been asking for something more challenging.”
With her versatility it’s no wonder that her favorite actress is Meryl Streep.
If you go:
You can look for notice of POP’s next show at the Potomac Club in Lansdowne by going to the Web site: playersonthePotomac.Org. Tickets are $7 if bought in advance; $8 at the door.
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