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Holly Long, 17, right, and Sam Hattaway, 18, rehearse a scene from 'Mulan Jr.' on Tuesday at N.C. Wesleyan College. Activate Drama's production of the Disney play runs Friday and Saturday nights at the Dunn Center.
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Telegram photo / Adam Jennings

Holly Long, 17, right, and Sam Hattaway, 18, rehearse a scene from 'Mulan Jr.' on Tuesday at N.C. Wesleyan College. Activate Drama's production of the Disney play runs Friday and Saturday nights at the Dunn Center.

Activate Drama returns with ‘Mulan Jr.’

From Staff Reports

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Young actors will bring the musical story of a heroic Chinese girl to the stage this weekend in the latest presentation by the Activate Drama theater program.

“Mulan Jr.” will be staged at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Dunn Center for the Performing Arts, a release says.

“This is the fourth year Activate Drama has collaborated with N.C. Wesleyan College to offer great family friendly theater at The Dunn Center,” the release says. “This fully mounted musical production will be performed by 53 young people ages 7 to 18.”

The musical is based on the 1998 Disney film “Mulan” and the story “Fa Mulan” by Robert D. San Souci. The story follows the namesake protagonist as she disguises hersaelf as a boy and volunteers to serve in the army when her country has been threatened.

“The Huns have invaded, and it is up to the misfit Mulan and her mischievous sidekick, Mushu, to save the emperor,” the release says. “Disney’s ‘Mulan Jr.’ is a heartwarming celebration of culture honor, and the fighting spirit.”

The production is a complex culmination of a two-week summer youth theater program. In addition to singing and acting, it requires some of the performers to master martial arts scenes and requires the technical staff to work with 200 costume pieces.

“I can’t believe the amazing talent and voices of these performers,” musical director Darren Malcolm said in the release. “The music is fun and intricate. From youngest to oldest, these young stars are dedicated to bringing their best work to the stage.”

Said intern Michael Taylor, a Wesleyan senior: “It’s interesting to see how well young people can act. It inspires me to work harder at my acting. I get to learn from the kids and help them learn new things.”

Danelle Cauley again directs the Activate Drama production. She has worked with a cast that covers a wide range of ages and stage skills.

“The cast varies in experience,” she said. “Some students have been in all nine shows Activate has produced, but we welcome new students in every production as well. ... I want to give every young person a chance to be a star.”

Cauley has directed several Activate Drama productions, including “Flat Stanley Jr.” “Seussical Jr.,” Aladdin Jr.,” “Into the Woods Jr.” and “The Little Mermaid Jr.” She has more than 20 years’ experience in acting and education and currently serves as the drama teacher at Faith Christian School and as an adjunct professor in the Department of Entertainment and Theater at Wesleyan.

Activate Drama has inspired some students such as Christian Rollman, 14, to consider careers in theater. “Mulan Jr.” is his eighth performance with the troupe.

“I was accepted immediately into the group. I love the environment,” he said. “Acting is a good challenge for me. It can be difficult because you have to do three things (singing, acting, and dancing) at once.”

The youth troupe plans two other productions this summer – “Pirates of Penzance Jr.” on July 25-26 and, in partnership with Freedom School and Peacemakers in Rocky Mount, “Honk Jr.” in August, the release says.

Tickets to “Mulan Jr.” are $12 for adults and $7 for seniors and students. They can be purchased at the center’s box office in advance by calling 985-5197 or starting 90 minutes before each show.