“Each individual is helping to tell the story. There are all kinds of different kids here, from different schools. They’re thrown together with kids they usually don’t hang with and they develop friendships and feel part of a group.”
– Nick Hunchak, Director of “Rugrats, A Live Adventure”
When I sat down to talk with Nick Hunchak on a refreshingly low-humid day, he pointed to the tree in the middle of the courtyard. “They had just planted that tree when I first came here.” Now the tree towers over the courtyard, providing much-needed shade during the hot, summer days.
Nick Hunchak is very familiar with the lay of the land at Summer Stage. He’s been involved in the program since 1977, his first summer as a participant. He grew up in Drexel Hill and went to Hillcrest Elementary, then to Drexel Hill Middle school, and then went on to Upper Darby High School. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and then obtained a Masters in Education from U of Penn. He now lives in Springfield with his family and is an elementary school teacher at Woodlyn Elementary school.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND ON THE SHOW
When he started to plan for the “Rugrats, A Live Adventure” production, he found it hard to believe the show is twenty years old this year. “This was one of the first shows that featured kids interacting with one another without any adults around,” says Nick. “And so it’s so much fun to watch, and it’s so clever. Especially the language.”
It became a huge success, winning the Emmy for “Outstanding Animated Daytime Program” in both 1993 and 1994. Soon to follow were anniversary specials and then three widely distributed movies; no doubt the “Rugrats” hallmark has been branded into the American culture.
Besides the fact that the show is twenty years old, Nick was surprised that the kids in the cast were so familiar with it. “They actually sought it out and researched it using today’s technology, YouTube for example,” says Nick.
WHY SEE “RUGRATS, A LIVE ADVENTURE?”
When it comes to producing a musical from a well-known animated show, the task is nothing but fun for both the director and the cast members. “The show has something for everybody. It’s cartoonish and it’s fun for the kids. It’s funny and it moves along. It’s captivating and there’s a lot to look at,” adds Nick.
As for the adults, they’ll enjoy the very clever dialogue just like when reading Junie B. Jones books. “Junie B. books are fun for the adults because they can enjoy the cleverness of the language and relate to the mistakes she makes, while she attempts to get herself out of trouble,” says Nick. “The adults will find similar events in Rugrats.”
“And the music is so much fun!,” Nick adds with enthusiasm.“There are musical numbers from all sorts of genres: reggae, techno, rap, vaudeville, there’s even an opera parody – it just keeps coming at you! Each song is different from the next. The kids are really enjoying the music and finding new favorites each day.”
LOTS OF HARD WORK
But while the show is a lot of fun, make no mistake, there’s a lot of hard work involved in putting it all together. “When the kids are involved in a production like this, I hope they gain a better appreciation of the theater, that they discover how it works. Even if they don’t continue in theater, when they go to see a show, they might now see it in a different way and realize there are many people working together to make it happen,” says Nick. “I’m always amazed when the kids experience their first tech day and they witness the number of people working toward the end product – they become aware that it’s not just the actors on the stage but countless individuals pulling together.”
As a director one of the biggest rewards is witnessing the kids involved in this collaboration and learning that each role is just as important as the next. “Everyone has something to offer,” adds Nick. “Each individual is helping to tell the story. There are all kinds of different kids here, from different schools. They’re thrown together with kids they usually don’t hang with and they develop friendships and feel part of a group.”
When Nick works with the kids in the cast, what does he want them to take away when Summer Stage is just a memory? “If they are able to leave with the idea of what it means to be a part of a team, to make new friends, and to find out what it’s like to put on a show – to have a product the group is proud of, then I’ve done my job.”