Play on Players members: Matthew Antoci, Brittany Barron, Taran Beasley, Brooke Blackwell, Emily Combs, Kendall Conley, Sage Cudney, Hannah Dahl, Grace Dorminy, Hugh Entrekin, Kealy Ford, Mikaela Guido, Jesse Hanks, Fiona Hare, Lauren Hill, Josiah Jackson, Kayla Key, Cameron Lineberry, Tess Luman, Bailey MacPherson, Halle MacPherson, Layne MacPherson, Dean McKenzie, Josh Oberlander, Catherine Peets, Taylor Priday, Alexis Ruby, Sofia Savas, Sierra Schade, Hannah Skelton, Riley Smith, Reagan Townley, Catie Urquhart, Julia Veiga and Ali Winiesdorffer.
Petite Poppers members: Kayna Adams, Ansley Allen, Cecilia Castro, Asa Chastain, Jubilee Chastain, Annie Cobb, Maddie Greene, Drew Hill, Anslie Hogan, Hayes Hogan, Jonathan Ingram, Jennafer Kirby, Angelica Krubeck, Anna Grace Marshall, Seth Martin, Mimi Masson, Olivia Mathews, Abi Minnear, Perry Morris, Kristina Nash, Halli Rider, Callie Skipper and Abigail Trotman.
For two years, a group of young actors from Northeast Georgia captured awards at the Junior Theater Festival. This year, Play on Players plans to do the same.
“We have gone the past two years and won outstanding production,” co-director Haden Rider said. “Also, in 2013, we won excellence in acting.”
After rehearsing for more than three months, POP looks forward to winning the outstanding production award for a third time during the festival Jan. 16-18 in Atlanta. But this time the group wants to take home hardware in two different age categories.
“Roughly out of 100 groups usually six groups get the award,” Rider said.
Now since Rider and her co-director Carly Berg have graduated from college, the Petite Poppers can attend the festival and compete for the first time.
“They’re getting life lessons and we’re helping some of them make career decisions,” Rider said. “Some have never done theater before, some have been doing it their whole life.”
Play on Players started in 2012 as a senior thesis between Rider and Berg.
“Every senior is required to do a senior thesis,” Rider said. “ We wanted to do a project that would better serve the community.”
The duo formed POP, which consists of two different age groups: children from 13 to 18 are the Play on Players while kids from 8 to 12 are the Petite Poppers.
This year, the Petite Poppers performed, “A Year With Frog and Toad, Kids.” And POP performed “The Little Mermaid Jr.” Both thespian groups will perform a condensed version of those plays at the festival later this month.
POP also will debut another play per the request of the festival.
“We are going to be presenting the musical ‘Elf Jr.,’” Rider said.
During the past three years, 16-year-old Lauren Hill has been involved in POP and has watched the group grow from 30 to 60.
“(Berg and Rider) are super awesome at pushing us to be great and taking time to work with us individually and one-on-one,” she said.
Hill, who played supporting roles for the past two years, played the lead role as Ariel in “The Little Mermaid Jr.” in December.
“(Berg and Rider) are great role models on the stage and off the stage,” she said. “And they also teach us to be role models for the younger group.”
Hill does not know if she will pursue acting as a career but she said she feels POP has helped her.
“The self-confidence that acting has taught me, expressing myself and being a big part of the community is definitely something I can use in any career,” she said, “whether it is on the stage or its broadcasting, marketing or public relations.”
Started as project, Rider hopes he can make a difference in a child’s life.
“Any outlet you give them to open up and expand their creative minds, that’s what we are trying to do,” Rider said.