honk jr south valley civic theatre
“Honk! Jr.,” South Valley Civic Theatre’s first children’s show in three years, opens Oct. 1 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse. Photo: Chris Foster

South Valley Civic Theatre’s upcoming performance of “Honk! Jr.” is truly a family affair, in more ways than one.

Adapted for the youngsters, the family-friendly show is based on “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen, which follows a baby duck named Ugly who is separated from his mother. On his journey to reunite with her, Ugly makes friends who accept his differences.

On the production side, “Honk! Jr.,” which opens Oct. 1 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, is filled with families and siblings who make up the cast and crew. That is perhaps most apparent with the Oliphant family of Gilroy, which includes Jenn as one of the producers, Spencer as the sound and lighting designer, Lynette as the vocal director, and the youngsters, Brenden, Cady, Claire, Genie and Izzy, are all performers in the show.

Claire, who will soon turn 13, performs as Grace the queen duck and Dot the goose. It’s her first time performing in theater, she noted, adding that she has always wanted to be in a show.

She added that “Honk! Jr.” has a positive message that is important for everyone.

“It echoes the same thing my family teaches, and that is kindness is key,” Claire said. “Our differences are special, not ugly. The world will be better if people accept differences.”

Gabriella Horta, 13, of Gilroy agreed, saying that the show has a strong anti-bullying message.

“I feel that it has a very inspiring message, especially for the young kids in the audience and in the play,” she said. “People will leave here feeling good about themselves and will learn something of value.”

Gabriella plays Maureen, the aunt of all the ducklings, and said that her character is “pretty silly and fun to play.”

A veteran of the stage since she was 6 years old, Gabriella has performed in four other South Valley Civic Theatre shows, most recently “Beauty and the Beast.”

She added that rehearsals, which began in early August, have been going smoothly, but one thing has surprised her.

“I didn’t expect to have as much fun as I’m having,” she said. “I like how fun the play is in general. It’s a kids’ show, so you just get to have fun with it.”

Director Tressa Bender described “Honk! Jr.” as the “perfect anti-bullying, pro-friendship” show. It’s also the theater company’s first children’s show in three years, due to pandemic challenges.

“A lot of the kids are performing for the very first time,” she said. “There’s a little apprehension, a little fear. Then there’s the kids that are so excited to be back.”

Costume and props designer Lorraine Bell said one of the challenges of working with children ages 4-13 is trying to keep up with their energy while helping them remain focused, adding that the older children are doing a great job of leading the younger ones.

Bender said an important aspect of South Valley Civic Theatre’s children’s shows is that they allow the young performers to participate for free, which is crucial to eliminating barriers and getting the next generation interested in the performing arts.

“It’s really great to support our youth in theater,” she said. “Without them, theater doesn’t have a future. By investing in our youth today, we get theater for tomorrow.”

Bender added that the sets, built by parent volunteers, were inspired by the work of famed author and illustrator Eric Carle, best known for his picture book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

And for the music?

“The songs are very catchy,” Gabriella said. “They’ve been stuck in my head ever since we started.”

“Honk! Jr.” by South Valley Civic Theatre runs weekends and Fridays from Oct. 1-22 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road. For tickets and information, visit svct.org/2022_honk.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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