NEPA Scene Staff

Act Out Theatre in Dunmore presents ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Rent’ with young casts May 14-16

Act Out Theatre in Dunmore presents ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Rent’ with young casts May 14-16
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From a press release:

Act Out Theatre Group’s repertory productions of “Rent: School Edition” and Disney’s “Aladdin Kids” will be presented on Friday, May 14 through Sunday, May 16 in Dunmore.

Act Out has been working with and following the recommendations of the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to bring these shows to the stage.

“It has not been easy, but the cast and crew banded together to rehearse things safely and socially distanced to be able to come together and safely mount this production,” Act Out Artistic Director and “Rent” director Dan Pittman of Plymouth said.

Based loosely on “La Bohème,” Jonathan Larson’s “Rent: School Edition” follows a year in the life of a group of poverty-stricken friends who are struggling on the Lower East Side of New York. It details their struggles dealing with addiction and personal relationships during the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“There are a lot of parallels with the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic and how lives had to be adapted.” Pittman said. “The school edition makes it more appropriate for teens to perform in.”

The “Rent” cast worked to relate the story to today.

“A lot of the issues covered in ‘Rent’ like homelessness and the struggle for money and the struggle for a place to be, and the struggle for work, are still prominent issues and results in today’s day and age,” said Abigail Tirva of Wyoming, who portrays Tom Collins.

The theatre’s precautions included wearing masks at rehearsal, social distancing, temperature checks, washing hands frequently, and limiting the number of participants in the show.

In true Act Out fashion, “Rent” is double cast.

“We try to give everyone in the show a well-rounded experience,” Pittman said. “For most of the characters in the show, two people play the part and alternate performances between a named role and ensemble.”

“There’s always gonna be competition when you have someone playing the same role as you,” said Mercedes Arlington of Swoyersville, who portrays Joanne. “I think that it’s useful in the way that we can look to each other for ideas and advice.”

​Abigail Tirva as Collins comforts a dying Angel, played by Sam Cherinka.

“Rent: School Edition” runs in “rep” with “Aladdin Kids.”

“Repertory theatre is a unique experience for actors, staff, and audiences,” said “Aladdin” director Kalen Churcher. “One night, you can come see ‘Rent’ and, the following afternoon, you can come back to the theatre and see ‘Aladdin Kids.’”

“Aladdin Kids” is the classic Disney story shortened for the youngest of actors.

“Kids versions are great because they allow younger performers to portray iconic characters,” said Churcher of Plymouth. “In this case, we have kiddos as young as 6 – and as old as 12 – taking the stage in some very familiar roles.”

Along with Tirva and Arlington, cast members of “Rent: School Edition” include Kevin Caffrey from Hanover Township as Benny/Roger, Rocco Pugliese (Wilkes-Barre Twp.) as Roger/Benny, Erin McLaughlin (Sweet Valley) as Mimi/ensemble member, Abby Hanson (Avoca) as ensemble/Mimi, Caelan Howe-Baden (Taylor) as Mark, Olivia Keen (Scranton) as ensemble/Maureen, Bella Cerra (Scranton) as Maureen/ensemble, Sam Cherinka (Forty Fort) as Angel/ensemble, Emma Kilgallon (Forty Fort) as ensemble/Angel, Emily Rowe (Forty Fort) as Joanne/ensemble, and Sarah Rose Pugliese (Wilkes-Barre Twp.) and Anna Brennan (Dallas) as ensemble members.

Cast members of “Aladdin Kids” include Dacyn Koretz (Bear Creek Twp.) as the Genie, Chase Richmond (Throop) as Aladdin, Ayza Ali (Jenkins Twp.) as Jasmine, Alaina Scassellati (Jessup) as Jafar, Makayla Franckowiak (Waymart) as Iago, Clark Aquirre (Clark Summit) as the Sultan, Ava Glynn (Mountain Top) as the djinn, Vivian Santiago (Covington Twp.) as the lamp vendor, Olivia Sears (Wyoming) as Avis, Madison Franckowiak (Waymart) as Abu, and Emma Salko (Shavertown), Nash Underhill (Bear Creek Village), Sarah Rose Pugliese (Wilkes-Barre Twp.), Sophia Tomasino (Shavertown), Ashlynn Cellerari (Luzerne), and Riley Bransfield (Scranton) as Agrabahns.

Both shows feature siblings – Sarah Rose and Rocco Pugliese are together in “Rent” and Makayla and Madison Franckowiak are in “Aladdin.”

“Rent: School Edition” runs on the Act Out stage (150 E. Grove St., Dunmore) on Friday, May 14 and Saturday, May 15 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 16 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.

“Aladdin Kids” runs Saturday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. All tickets are $10.

Tickets must be purchased in advance by visiting or emailing Due to COVID-19 restrictions, audience sizes are limited and masks are required to attend.

“People should see ‘Rent’ for a range of different reasons. Everyone worked so hard on this show, and every single person is so passionate about what they do, and that really shows through their performances,” Tirva emphasized.

“This show is just so different from so many other shows, and it covers such serious issues while also showing the story of a found family, and coming together, and love and loss, and it’s just a beautiful story, and I think that’s worth seeing it for.”

While putting these productions together, Act Out Theatre Group has also started a Diversity Initiative Scholarship Fund to increase the diversity on its stage.

“There is truly a show for everyone this weekend at Act Out,” Pittman added. “Live theatre is making its return, and we can’t wait to get back in front of an audience again.”

​Members of the ‘Rent’ cast play a support group for people with AIDS.