GLEN ELLYN – For Hadley Junior High School eighth-grader Will Rozak, acting is a way to express himself.
"You get to be someone you're not, which is always fun," he said.
This time around, he will play the character Aladdin in Hadley Theater Arts' production of "Aladdin," which will be presented at 7 p.m. March 10, 3 and 7 p.m. March 11 and 2 p.m. March 12 in the school's auditorium, 240 Hawthorne Blvd., Glen Ellyn. Ticket information is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is his fourth Hadley Theater Arts show. He is having fun playing the role of Aladdin.
"He connects with the audience a lot," Will said. "It's fun to be jumping around. I get to jump around on trampolines and stuff like that."
Gina Corrado, who co-directs "Aladdin" with Lori Palmisano, said she sees the benefits of students being involved in theatrical productions.
"It gives them a sense of confidence," Corrado said. "Ninety percent of the children who do junior high theater will not go on to do theater professionally, but the skills that they acquire doing theater, along with the camaraderie and the mentoring, in my opinion, are extremely valuable. I hope the district keeps on fueling the arts because I think it is a really valuable thing for all kids."
Palmisano noted the students learn how to work together as a team. "Aladdin" features more than 100 cast members, along with another 30 students working backstage. In addition, several Glenbard West High School students are helping with the production.
"They have to work together, and they have to be disciplined to get to this point and do a show in front of 500 people," Palmisano said. "I just think they grow a lot in their confidence."
The co-directors have seen that growth firsthand.
"We've seen kids who were so shy that they didn't want to lift their chin up, and then, a year later or two years later, they're singing solo in front of 500 people," Corrado said. "It's a really rewarding part of this. We really get to see them learn and grow and get confident."
Hadley seventh-grader Maggie Meyers is a narrator in the cast and is happy to be part of the production. Her other roles have included the milk maid in "Beauty and the Beast" and the ladybug in "James and the Giant Peach."
"It's been my favorite movie ever since I saw it as a little kid," she said. "I love the music, and I love Princess Jasmine. She has been a role model to me because of her kindness."
She also enjoys being part of a theatrical production and the camaraderie with her fellow cast members.
"It's like a huge family, and we all support each other," she said. "The vibe is so fun."
If you go
What: Hadley Theater Arts' production of "Aladdin"
When: 7 p.m. March 10, 3 and 7 p.m. March 11 and 2 p.m. March 12
Where: Hadley Junior High School, 240 Hawthorne Blvd., Glen Ellyn