The Jungle Book amuses children through lessons

FLINT — The Flint Youth Theatre is showing its own production of “The Jungle Book” Friday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 23, at 2 p.m. The play is taking place at the company’s Bower Theatre, located at 1220 E. Kearsley St.

Like other Flint Youth Theatre productions, the blend of student and professional actors makes the cast special; and together, the actors are able to teach morals in a way that delights all ages.

“FYT productions are all unique in the respect that we have student actors working and learning alongside professional adult actors. The resulting productions are exceptionally high quality, but also provide an environment for young people to learn and grow and discover new things about themselves and the art of theatre,” said Barry Lehr, who played a wolf and a monkey in the play.

The play, which has both comical and serious parts, is about a boy (played by a girl) named Mowgli who is raised by a family of wolves. When a tiger named Shere Khan, who hates all people, threatens the boy, he must leave his family. He then develops a close relationship with a panther named Bagheera and a bear named Baloo. Mowgli also comes in contact with many other animals.

As with all forms of the arts, including plays, musical works or paintings, the actors, who have had unique experiences, each have their own interpretations of the work. The actors shared what they felt the primary message of the production is.

“(It’s about) growing up, being part of your community and learning your own sense of right and wrong, and learning what it means to do what you think is right,” said Lehr, who is also FYT’s resident artist in production and is the props master with the company.

“I think this is an important story for all because it is a story about community, courage and self-acceptance,” said Phil Darius Wallace. Wallace plays Shere Khan and is an alumni of FYT as well as a guest artist in the production. He is preparing to perform in his oneman show, “Starry Road to Freedom: The Frederick Douglass Story,” also through FYT.

He also said he was excited about the opportunity and challenge of playing different animals. He said each animal has its own personality and set of strengths and weaknesses. “I enjoyed playing the role of Shere Khan because it is always fun to play the villain,” said Wallace.

Lehr said the play shows the diversity in the community through the diversity of actors. “I like this play,” he said. “It’s a fun journey for all ages and has themes that resonate with all of us.”

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