At a very young age, Maya King was a very shy child, so her mother decided to have her audition for a role in a “Little Mermaid” production.
King, then 5, landed the role of Flounder, the friendly fish who is always willing to help those in need. Initially hesitant, King said she had the time of her life being on stage.
That first role kickstarted a career in theater for King, who is now 16 and attending Christopher High School, and has performed in more than 20 shows.
King is now playing as Spot Conlon in South Valley Civic Theatre’s upcoming teen show, “Newsies Jr.,” who is the feared leader of the Brooklyn Newsies.
Conlon, typically performed as a boy in other productions of “Newsies Jr.,” is a girl in SVCT’s show, and King sees many similarities in personality between her and her character.
“I’m a very, very enthusiastic person,” she said. “I’m very hyper. I honestly get stubborn sometimes, and that’s a big part of the character. Stubborn is not always bad. It’s a good thing to be able to stand up for yourself.”
But there is one difficult thing about the character that King has realized during rehearsals.
“The only hard thing is owning the room,” she said. “It’s definitely hard to act like you have that confidence and act like you’re very important.”
“Newsies Jr.,” directed by Colleen Blanchard, opens May 6 and runs Fridays through Sundays up until May 22 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road in Morgan Hill.
“Newsies Jr.” is the teen version of the 2012 Disney Broadway musical, which is based on the 1992 film. Taking place during the Newsboy Strike of 1899, the musical follows Jack Kelly, who gathers his fellow newsboys together to take on Joseph Pulitzer, whose decision to raise the prices on newspapers impacted the youngsters who delivered them.
Producer Kathy Tom said SVCT’s modular set allows pieces of it to change throughout the show, giving it the vibe of the Broadway show.
The cast of 32 features actors aged 12-19, most of which are from South County.
“It’s been a joy to work with them,” Tom said. “They are all so eager and all so talented. It’s such a good learning experience for the new kids.”
Tom stressed the importance of the young actors being on stage, giving them the confidence and the public speaking skills they will use later in life. Such options were essentially nonexistent during the height of the pandemic, she noted.
“I see it as a step back into theater for these kids,” she said. “So many of them haven’t been able to do any theater at all. This is a chance for them to get back on stage and reintroduce themselves.”
King said she’s missed theater for the past two years, and added it’s important for her peers to see the emotions they’ve felt over the last two years be played out on stage.
“‘Newsies’ is all about the camaraderie and rebellion of youth,” she said. “This show is about fun, joy, danger and angst. It’s all of these emotions you feel when you’re growing up.”
“Newsies Jr.” opens May 6 and runs Fridays through Sundays up until May 22 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road in Morgan Hill. For tickets, visit svct.org/2022_newsies.