To vestige the on-going journey of discovery and acceptance of oneself and thanks to a vision from CAU directors and staff, talented men and women came together to form CAU Community Players for their debut production, “Seussical Jr.” at Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield, NJ, June 29th to July 1st, 2012. Cast members were comprised of CAU members and staff, and aspiring actors from many different communities across three counties in New Jersey. “Seussical Jr.”, a story with endless interpretations based on life experience and situation, takes us through each protagonist’s struggle to overcome boundaries as they utilize the power of imagination.
The story follows Dr. Seuss’s most beloved characters, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, the Whos of Whoville, and JoJo, the son of the Mayor and his wife of Whoville. Horton is faced with the challenge of protecting the citizens of Whoville, who live on a speck of dust, in which he is ridiculed, through the help of the Cat in the Hat, by Sour Kangaroo, the Wickershams, and Mayzie and the Bird Girls for believing he could do such a thing. Through this mockery, Gertrude McFuzz takes a stand in the name of Horton’s good intentions. JoJo is introduced through his parent’s disgruntlement as he gets into trouble for his thinking at school. Left to their own devices, JoJo and Horton drift into their imaginations only to find that it leads them to becoming friends. Love sick Gertrude McFuzz sings to herself about Horton as she goes unnoticed due to her one feathered tail. Mayzie appears and recommends Gertrude to a doctor who has pills to get the tail she has been dying for.
Horton faces ambush as the sneaky Wickershams steal the clover with Whoville on it. After being shaken up by the Wickershams, Horton searches every clover to find the Whos, until he meets again with Gertrude who vows to help him as she is feeling confident with her beautiful new tail. Unfortunately, Horton is too involved with saving the Whos that he barely acknowledges Gertrude’s new tail leaving her feeling sad and discouraged more than ever before. Horton is coaxed into sitting on Mayzie’s egg as she is in need of a vacation. Much time passes as Horton is unable to continue his quest for the clover of the Whos. As a result, hunters capture Horton and auction him off in the circus. Mayzie soon grows bored of her vacation and leaves paradise to find a circus. After seeing Horton sitting on the egg in a cage at the crircus, Mayzie realizes that Horton would take better care of the egg and disappears before Horton has the opportunity to give it back to her. Although Horton accepts responsibility for the egg, he is deeply worried about the future of the Whos and JoJo.
After a treacherous journey to save Horton, Gertrude finds Horton in his cage. Horton finally recognizes Gertrude’s worth as she brings the Whos’ clover with her. Before the two of them can fully rejoice, Horton is put on the spot by the Sour Kangaroo and the Wickersham’s as they seek to arrest him for talking to dust and sitting on an egg. As the Citizens of the Jungle of Nool come together to crowd around the trial led by Yertle the Turtle, Horton is sentenced to the Nool Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Furthermore, Yertle the Turtle orders that the home of the Whos’ is to be boiled. Although Horton is unaware that he is the only person who can hear the Whos, he cries out that Whoville needs to scream in order to prove their existence. JoJo saves the day with one of his ‘Thinks’ as he cries out a word that everyone is able to hear. As Whoville is saved, the egg that Horton was protecting protrudes into a baby Elephant Bird! Horton and Gertrude sync their love as Horton realizes she is his one true friend in the universe and looks to Gertrude to help his raise the Elephant Bird. The play ends with the suggestion of the Cat in the Hat that this is only the beginning of new adventures.
Gillian Speiser, from the NAM Team, having viewed the play herself had the opportunity to speak with some of the play’s main characters regarding their experiences over the six-month period before opening night. CAU member Gabby Aragona, who played the Leader of the Wickershams, found Seussical Jr. to be an outlet for stress relief and a great way to make new friends outside the CAU community. “When I had a rough time in the house, Megan’s mom [Marguerite Modero, Seussical Director] helped me enjoy rehearsals. You forget everything when you’re dancing and laughing”. Gabriella also noted that she has kept in touch with many of the community players through Facebook, and speaks to each of them on a regular basis. Being a part of Seussical has also encouraged Gabriella to pursue other acting opportunities in the area as she will be attending acting classes at the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ next summer.
Kim Barry, who played Gertrude McFuzz, said that she is glad CAU gave her another opportunity to act as she participated in many plays when she was younger. Kim said this experience really boosted her confidence as she was first actor among CAU Community players to memorize all of her lines, which allowed her to assist other members effectively with their own lines. “I took a lot away from it, it helped me with my confidence and most importantly, I had a blast”. Kim said she was so nervous up until opening night that she even sung her lines in her sleep! Kim also plans to attend acting classes next summer with Gabriella and our other lead role, Megan Modero, who played the role of JoJo.
Megan exclaimed how much she loved working with her mother in community theatre. Through her role as JoJo, Megan said, “I don’t feel alone anymore and I learned that anything is possible”. Megan also said she was very pleased with herself because this was her first time landing a lead role in a play. Due to Seussical’s great success, Megan hinted that her mother may be directing another play next year featuring CAU’s Community Players and that she will definitely be involved!
Self-advocates, Myrta Rosa and Joyce Cargle, both of whom played the role of a Who, digressed from their usual past times to join the cast of Seussical Jr. Reflecting on her overall experience, Myrta said, “It was great, it came out very well. I really loved it because it gave CAU members the opportunity to let other people know what people with disabilities can do when we put our minds to it. Sign me up for the next play!” Joyce explained that while she was very nervous up until opening night, she’s very glad she followed through with her commitment to Seussical Jr. Joyce and Myrta suggested that people with disabilities should give acting a try because it’s a great way to experience success and to show your hard work to the community.