Emily Waldren has always loved theater productions.
As a result of that passion, the DePauw University senior, who is in the school's Media Fellows Program, decided in January that she wanted to share that love with local youngsters as part of her senior seminar program through the DePauw Media Fellows Program.
"I did children's theater when I was little," Waldren said. "I wanted to do a project I was passionate about."
DePauw's Media Fellows Program Director David Bohmer said 20 to 25 freshmen are recruited into the honors program each year. The program was established in 1992.
As seniors, the students have to complete a project related to the media in the senior seminar, which Bohmer instructs.
Waldren -- a literature major from Urbana, Ohio -- elected to work with local elementary students on a play.
"I had come up with this in January," Waldren said. "(Bohmer) really seemed to like the idea. I was really interested in doing this."
Waldren started working on the play by sending out 550 audition flyers at Tzouanakis Intermediate School.
"We had a real audition," Waldren said. "I got 19 responses. Everybody that tried out got a part in the play."
Waldren decided on an adaptation of "Hansel and Gretel" -- a fairytale written by the Grimm Brothers. The three-act play she chose was adapted from the original by Judy Barry Brown. However, it was a Christmas play, so Waldren had to make some adaptations.
Of the 19 students in the play, 16 are Tzouanakis students while three are from Peace Lutheran Preschool Kindergarten and Primary. All are students in grades 3-5, and two are doubling up roles.
The play will make its debut at DePauw's Moore Theater at 7:30 p.m. today.
The student actors have been rehearsing at least one hour four days a week for quite some time. They had their first dress rehearsal on Wednesday.
"They've had to be very dedicated to do this," Waldren said. "These are very busy children."
The actors include Brianna Adams, Jacob Buckley, Rachel Coget, Alina Carrillo, Daniel Carrillo, Sofia Carrillo, Ashlyn Cox, Faith Demoret, Dalton Holcomb, Hannah Gellman, Lauren Good, Hanah Homler, George Howard, Levi Lewis, Nicolette Peters, Nate Staggs, Taylor Stout, Autumn Williams and Sylvia Williams.
Holcomb, who portrays Carl in the play, said he's been involved in plays before, having taken part in a classroom production of the Nutcracker while in first grade.
However, this is his first time in a stage production.
"I feel kind of nervous," said the 9-year-old son of Cindy Lycos. "Because all those people will be staring at us."
But he said he wanted to take part in the play to help him with his school work.
"I thought it would be really good for me to do this," he said. "It would help me out with memorizing."
Spoken like a true character actor, Holcomb said the role of Carl was a good fit for him.
"He's really smart and he knows what's right," he said.
Good has also participated in plays before, having been involved in productions of "Oliver" and "The Tempest" at the Putnam County Playhouse. But the 11-year-old daughter of Tim and Caroline Good said her part in "Hansel and Gretel" is different than past roles.
"I get to be mean," said Lauren, who plays the witch.
After working with the student actors, Waldren found a new respect for those in the teaching profession, particularly her mother, who taught for several years before recently retiring.
"It's been kind of a crazy couple of days," Waldren said. "It's been a lot of hard work, especially at the end of the semester. But I love it."