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Teenagers, adults build bridges in South Jordan production of 'Footloose'

Published June 20, 2013 11:00 am

Community theater • Director wanted to celebrate teens and their importance.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sixty of 100 cast members in the South Jordan Community Theatre production of "Footloose" were not even born in the same decade as the 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon.

But "Footloose" is one of the theater's family productions in which parents and children perform together in the cast, band and crew.

"We did [Les Miserables] last year and a lot of people were stunned by how much they loved the production and how good it was and these are the same kids doing it," said Toni Butler, the play's director and president of the theater company. "So we wanted to do another teenage one."

The story focuses on Ren McCormack, a teenager who moves from Chicago to the small Midwestern town of Bomont. Ren causes a stir by challenging the town's ban on dancing instituted by Reverend Shaw after four teenagers, including his son, drove off a bridge after a night of partying. It is a story about teenagers bringing a community together. Butler said through the play, she wants to convey a message of valuing and celebrating teenagers as well as loving and finding value in one another.

"I happen to look a lot like a teenager. I look very young for my age and people mistake me for a teenager, so I am always surprised how quickly they judge me, and if they find out I'm an adult, they treat me differently," Butler said.

The bridge where the accident occurred figures prominently in the play.

"There's been this basically this bridge that's been torn down because of this accident, and they're building that up, so we've talked about that and bridging relationships in our own lives and what can we do, applying it to our own lives," Butler said

One of the adults in the play is Geoff Means, who plays Reverend Shaw, said the bridge reflects the message of the play.

"I think the bridge is symbolic of the community. It's a bridge that divides the community but then also holds them together to bridge that gap. There's a lot of symbolism in the play, too, that's really important," Means said.

Hayden Parkinson, who graduated from Herriman High School this year and plays Ren, said community and following your beliefs are important themes in the play.

"It's this awful town that this terrible thing has happened to, and it took this one Ren McCormack kid to cause all this trouble for them to finally be able to as a community to get over this terrible event that happened when the four kids fell off the bridge and died. It's really about moving on, not forgetting the past, but coming to terms with it and being OK with it," Parkinson said.

While Parkinson has not had Ren's life experience, he still relates with some aspects of his life.

"I've been the new kid, too. I moved here to Utah the beginning of my junior year, and there's always that anxiety, and I really love Ren's story because he gets there and everything goes wrong, and I've felt that, too," Parkinson said.

Butler said working with teenagers in not different from working with adults.

"Surprisingly, the adults act more like teenagers. They're actually really great. They really committed a lot of energy," Butler said. "I would say there's not much difference. They both love to play, they both love to have fun get away do something different."

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"Footloose"

Through June 25

Early Light Academy, 11709 S. Vadania Dr., South Jordan

Tickets cost $7 to $9

Produced by the South Jordan Community Theater