Sisters Isabelle and Viki Villines have done every show they’ve ever been in together.
Isabelle is three years older than her sister, and after being in the backstage crew for Viki’s last performance in the Lion King Jr., it’s Isabelle’s turn to stand in the limelight.
Viki, 10, is working as a crew member for the first time in their current show, “Ramona Quimby,” which opened Friday night at Helen Hocker Theater.
When asked if the girls would ever want to try different shows — apart from one another — they answered simultaneously and differently.
“What!” Viki exclaimed, feigning shock as Isabelle shrugged and laughed at her sister’s outrage.
The Villines’s are just one of six sets of siblings making up the cast and crew of “Ramona Quimby.”
“It just sort of happened,” said director Laurie Uhler of the casting choice. “We had 61 children audition for 21 parts, and it’s hard as a director because I’m disappointing 40 kids. It was really tough to choose, and a lot of the kids who weren’t chosen for our cast said, ‘Fit me in on your crew if you can,’ and even then we had to turn some kids away.”
In the lobby another set of siblings waited patiently for rehearsal to start, Issac, Ian and Katie Mead, who all had roles in the show.
Issac said theater has always been a part of their family. His mom and dad support the theater by volunteering, and he has two older siblings who have performed in the past.
“I really like performing with siblings because they’re close to me, and I can just come up to them and hug them whenever I want, I don’t even have to ask,” Issac said, while wrapping his little sister in a hug. “Theater is really stressful, and I don’t handle stress well, so I like having them around.”
Katie, the youngest Mead sibling in the production, is also one of the youngest in the show. She plays a Girl Scout in the ensemble. This is her second show ever, and when asked which she likes better — “Dear Santa” or “Ramona” — she couldn’t decide.
“In ‘Dear Santa’ she got to call me names,” Issac said. “I think she liked that a little bit.”
Also in his second show at Helen Hocker is Mason Bartlett, 9, who plays the character Howie. Mason is the younger brother to Kaitlyn Bartlett, 14, who plays Howie’s grandmother, Mrs. Kemp.
“It’s not that hard (to act like his grandma) because I already know him, obviously,” Kaitlyn said. “I think it helps with our dynamic.”
In addition to the six sets of siblings, there’s also a few sets of cousins on stage. As Isabelle explained, the cast is basically a big, happy family.
“The show is actually about five pieces of the Ramona Quimby and Beezus books,” Uhler said. “They take ‘Ramona and her Mother,’ ‘Ramona and her Father,’ ‘Ramona the Pest,’ ‘Ramona the Brave,’ — there’s a whole slew of them. There’s about five from the series that scenes are taken from, and it’s supposed to be Ramona all throughout the third grade.”
Set on Klickitat Street in 1978, the stage is divided into three retro-style apartments. The top floor is Aunt Bea’s apartment, with the Quimbys’ neighbors, The Kemps, on the second floor. The Quimbys’ apartment is level with the audience. In addition to the changing set, there’s also the changing seasons that occur while telling Ramona’s story.
“It’s got a lot of moving parts, and because it’s taking all those scenes from five different books there’s a lot of scenes, so they have to go boom boom boom boom boom,” Uhler demonstrated, flashing her fingers like fireworks. “And there’s a ton of props because it takes place over the whole year, so you’ve got all four seasons represented with the costumes. So in one scene you’ve got a coat, one scene you don’t have a coat, they have a sweater. There’s a Halloween parade where the kids go trick-or-treating, so we had to have Halloween costumes on all the children, so our costumer got a workout.”
The show made its debut Friday night at Helen Hocker Theater, 700 S.W. Zoo Parkway, and runs through Sept. 24. Tickets are $10 plus tax. For information, visit helenhockertheater.com.
Contact reporter Savanna Maue at (785) 295-5621 or @CJFoodFun or @SavannaMaue on Twitter.