HANFORD — The Temple Theater is now home to a soon-to-be dystopian future.
The Kings Players’ newest play, “The Children’s Story,” is an examination of patriotism, freedom and religion set in a world where America has been conquered by an unnamed enemy.
The Kings Players periodically put on plays with casts primarily made up of children, but rather than do a musical or something based on a Disney story, the theater company’s newest production is a little more dark and complex.
“This group of kids is great. What’s amazing to me is that they really understand what’s going on. This play doesn’t tell you what to believe. It’s all between the lines and they’re getting it,” director Cyndie Maxwell said.
The play, which opens tonight and runs through Sept. 1 , was written as a short story by James Clavell who also wrote the “Shogun” book series and films like “The Fly” and “The Great Escape.” He got the idea for the story after realizing that sometimes people lose track of where their traditions and believes come from.
“His granddaughter did the Pledge of Allegiance and didn’t even understand it, so it got him thinking about how if people don’t really understand their believe system, be they Democratic, religious or whatever, they can be easily deceived by subversion,” Maxwell said.
The play follows a day in the lives of a fifth grade class that is adjusting to occupation and their new teacher, an agent of the occupying foreign power. The new, unnamed country is bending America to its will “slowly and sweetly,” Maxwell said.
“It was very quick and it happened and we lost. So now we set the stage for those who are left behind, especially the children. It looks at their part in the future and how easy it is to be manipulated by the powers that be,” actress RaeLynn Royer said.
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Royer, who plays the kids’ ousted American teacher, and Kenzie McCollough, who plays their incoming propaganda-spewing teacher, are the sole adults in the play. The show is “carried by the kids,” Royer said.
The children in the class each deal with the aftermath of the war in their own ways. Hilda (played by 11-year-old Karlie Price) hides behind her sense of humor, Mary (played by 12-year-old Brynn Johnson) is filled with anxiety that her birthday will be ruined and Johnny lashes out in anger.
“For me, being an angry character is still new to me. I’m definitely not like that in real life,” 11-year-old Donovan Ray, who plays Johnny, said.
The “emotional” Sandra is played by 11-year-old Salma Alatorre. The 11-year-old actress said she was happy to be cast in the role. A veteran dancer and actor with P.A.T.Y’Studio, “The Children’s Story” marks her first non-musical role.
“This is different from things I’ve done before and I like trying new things, so this is perfect.”
She said she’s excited to try something out of her wheelhouse and, as a fan of horror films — “The Sixth Sense” is her favorite — she has always wanted to act in a horror story.
“[“The Children’s Story”] is not exactly horror, but it’s suspenseful. I like doing this darker thing, as opposed to what I’ve done before.”
Casey Minnig, Danielle Chwaleh, Henry Van Gemmert (last seen playing Snoopy in the Player’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”) and Even Jorgens round out the cast. Jorgens, a longtime player with the Hanford Multicultural Theater Company, performs on the Temple Theater stage for the first time in this production.