"She's quiet; she only speaks in very short sentences because she's so overwhelmed by the craziness," says 17-year-old Emily Knight who plays the character in The Barefoot Children in The City of Ward by Nashville playwright Cori Anne Laemmel now being produced by A.D. Players' Academy students.
Sixteen-year-old Dylan Klinge, plays Oliver. "He's kind of a know-it-all. He's kind of awkward as a person. In a lot of scenes his movement is robotic."
"For a lot of the show it's the kids of Ward painting this picture of a beautiful city and they go on this adventure and something tragic happens that brings them back to reality," Knight says.
And reality means they are back in the hospital. In the Oncology Ward of Nations Hospital in Chicago. And suddenly the play changes from fantasy to something else, although there is humor throughout it.
"This offers kids a chance to play kids their own age," says A.D. Players Interim Artistic Director Kevin Dean. "I love The Wizard of Oz and it's a great opportunity for kids, but what this show offers is that it teaches the kids that art can be more than entertainment. You can change lives or raise awareness for a group of people."
A. D. Players had a lot of local kids audition and was able to get most of them in, Dean says. They range in age from 6-17. They gave homework to the cast members to do research on cancer, however they wanted to do it. The script doesn't identify what kind of cancer each character has, he says.
Klinge thinks the show has a real chance to reach an audience of all ages.
"I think everyone has dealt with cancer in some way," he says. "They've had a friend or a family member or they at least know someone."
Within the show, the characters react in different ways when the tragic moment happens, he says. "When they're talking about the tragedy at first a lot of them don't know what it means, like Violet doesn't understand really because she's new. The younger kids don't really know what it means."
Dean says playwright Laemmel writes the kind of plays she does because "Her philosophy is kids will hear lessons better from other kids rather than adults."
A.D. Players is partnering with local non-profit CanCare and a portion of the proceeds will go to them.
Performances are scheduled for October 18-21 at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Jeannette & L.M. George Theater, 5420 Westheimer. For information, call 713-526-2721 or visit adplayers.org. $14 plus fee.