The 7-Mile Players Bring the Joy of Youth Theater to Avalon

By Do the Shore Staff

Header image: Ariel and the prince lean in during ‘Kiss the Girl’  as part of last year’s “The Little Mermaid” production. Photo by Sol Ayosa

The 7 Mile Island Players, a new theater group that involves kids of all ages, was born out of the idea that nothing, not even a pandemic, should get in the way of children getting involved in the arts. In the spring of 2021, when the pandemic was causing schools to shut down theater and sports, many lost the comradery that comes with being and playing together.

Bill Martin, one of the group’s founders, wanted to find a way to bring summer theater back for the kids of Stone Harbor and Avalon so they could be together and make friendships once more.

The 7-Mile-Players, over 50 in number, smile for a photo.

So, 7 Mile Island Players, and its outdoor camp, was born.  Bill said that the group had an overwhelmingly warm response right from the start. The group received the full backing of the Borough of Stone Harbor, and was able to put the summer theater program together in just three months. 

The group’s first show, “The Little Mermaid, Jr” was a great success; people came with their families and lawn chairs to the Recreation fields to watch kids perform. The show was so well-received that the entire community practically begged to do it again.

The program nearly doubled in size this year, from 45 to 75 kids, and registration had to close in April due to the huge response. This year’s show will be “Aladdin, Jr,” and the group hopes to match the spectacle and excitement of last year’s show.

The Players have brought on many talented young actors, singers, and dancers, along with two professional directors, Gabby Horvitz and Jody Haggerty, to run the show. The kids, who ranged from young beginners to actors seasoned in musical theater, came together to create a fantastic production.

Last year’s “Little Mermaid” was a local hit; kids are pictured singing in seagull costumes.

According to Horvitz, her main objective is to “teach these young actors in 3 weeks how to use their voice and how to tell the story. I take the time to teach them how to read a script, learn proper singing techniques, teach them melody lines and challenge them with harmonies. However, for Horvitz teaching kids how to see the stage as a metaphor for life is the biggest skill she hopes to impart. “We all have ‘wants’ and we all need to know how to get our points across. Teaching each actor what their character’s ‘want’ is in a show makes them understand their individual story and how to tell it onstage. This skill can be paralleled in life by giving the actors the confidence to speak their mind, be creative and critical thinkers and learn how to talk in front of a crowd and to get their point across.” says Horvitz.

Another important takeaway from their time with the 7-Mile Island Players is the friendship they fostered over the summer. In a time where neighbors are increasingly isolated from one other, it was deeply impactful for the kids to unite over a shared love for theater.

Bill, and others involved with the group, say that this is what the 7 Mile Island Players are all about. Kirstin Morris, a parent who helped the Players and whose daughter participates in the productions, said that the performances have been a great outlet during a difficult time.

A crew of “chefs” at the Little Mermaid performance

She said that the Players have been a blessing after “coming off a difficult year when kids were being schooled from home and while their activities were canceled. The friendships my daughter made through the program were kept up throughout the school year, and they picked right back up when they were reunited at auditions for Aladdin.”

The group hopes that this year’s show will be as successful this year as it was last year. Bill said that “with the talent we have returning, we are sure it will be.” 

To see Disney’s Aladdin Jr. : Tickets available online at www.7mip.org or on before the show at the Stone Harbor Rec Center. Show dates & times: 6-8pm on July 28th, 29th, 30th, and 5-7pm July 31st

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