Looking for a reason to get your kids off their screens? Take them to see a play for young audiences: #SuperShinySara, written and directed by Topanga resident Wesley Middleton.
The play was originally commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse for its 2017 Performance Outreach Program (POP). Now, Topanga Actors Company (TAC) is presenting a staged reading at Topanga Library on April 28 and 29.
Four actors, including the playwright and director, take on multiple roles in this production. Sara is an excellent storyteller and a pretty good older sister, but her life is nothing compared to the glamorous world of her idol, @ShoppyGoddess—a teenage fashion mogul and megastar on social media.
Eleven-year-old Sara (Rosie Narasaki) longs to escape into the fabulous online world of @PoshKidsofPicstapost, of photos, fame, and followers. When a magical event transports her right into the social media feed itself, she is impeded and aided by ShoppyGoddess (Linda Molnar) and teenage idol, Posh Prince (Henry David Miller, also cast as Sara’s little brother, Rez). Of course, Sara’s story ends well for her, Rez, and mother, Maya (Wesley Middleton), but not before Sara unmasks pop diva Bella Blackthorn (Wesley Middleton), who stole her signature song from Sara’s mother. In the end, she discovers that having a super shiny life may not be so perfect after all.
Playwright Wesley Middleton said, “I think there’s a timeless and universal theme here about not looking for an idea outside of yourself to tell you what your life should be like and who you should be.”
Middleton has written ten plays, five have been produced professionally for young audiences; three of them have had multiple productions. With two Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in playwriting and television writing and production, Middleton was working in theater as a producing director in New York. She was happy there but wanted to write for television and moved to L.A. in 2014.
This was a bold move for anyone, but especially so for a 44-year old. Now 48, Middleton laughs as she shares that neither of her MFAs are in subjects that earn the big bucks, so she has also worked as a contract writer for online health companies and grant writing while teaching playwriting and working in the theater.
Despite her success as a playwright, Middleton works full-time in L.A. as a brand manager for SmartyPants Vitamins. Rehearsing #SuperShinySara, along with a day job that involves travel, has kept Middleton busy. “It feels like I’m in my own play or TV show all the time,” she said.
This is the first time Middleton has directed for a while. “I’m grateful to Judith Hendra for inviting me to direct the play as it’s reminded me just how much I love directing. One of my favorite parts of the writing process is being in the room with the actors and watching the play transform and take shape. It’s extra fun for me being more involved in this production as an actor,” said Middleton.
Judith Hendra and Paula LaBrot founded Topanga Actors Company in 2015 and #SuperShinySara is its sixth production. Hendra is producing and stage managing the play. While LaBrot sits this one out as she’s directing TAC’s next play, yet to be decided, scheduled for May. There will be three TAC plays in 2018.
Hendra said, “I’ve known Wes for two years through the neighborhood and she is also a member of my book club. We’ve been talking about plays all that time and I was intrigued by the idea she wrote them.”
#SuperShinySara is ideal for children aged six and up and runs for about 45 minutes. There’ll be a Q & A session after the performance with the cast and audience. “We guarantee your kids will have lots of questions!” said Hendra.
Middleton said, “As much as I love what’s happening with TV, film and streaming, there’s a transformation that occurs in live theater that you can’t replicate elsewhere. There’s an energy to it that is so immediate and fun and discovery in the experience more than any other form of media.”
What kid wouldn’t enjoy a play with time travel? “It’s a little fantastical and it’s fun,” said Middleton, who continues to pursue her dream and aspiration to write television for younger viewers.
Performances of #SuperShinySara, written and directed by Wesley Middleton, are Saturday, April 28, and Sunday, April 29, at 2 p.m.
Admission and on-site parking are free, and you, your children and grandchildren are free to enjoy an hour of live theatre at Topanga library.
For further information, contact Judith Hendra at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers are welcome.