When it comes to live parody musical theater, no other group brings it to life like Little People’s Repertory Theater (LPRT) in Ben Lomond. The Park Hall-based crew of kids and parent volunteers begin work the minute school adjourns for the summer, and spend 5-6 weeks creating an entertaining and completely original theatrical production that is presented to the community each July.
Janinne Chadwick plays her part well as executive and artistic director of LPRT. She began work with the theater group nearly 20 years ago and has spent the majority of her time helping compose the original rock musicals for which LPRT is known.
Each summer, Chadwick’s team creates a story that marries pop culture with traditional fairy tales, and 2022 is no exception. This year, the cast of children ages 8-14 will present Survivor Surf City: A Mermaid Odyssey, which seeks to “honor the beloved weirdness of Santa Cruz and the San Lorenzo Valley with a dash of the familiar and a twist of ancient Greece,” from July 20-31.
LPRT’s junior players, aged 3-7, open and steal each show, but this year they were preempted by real thieves. On June 30, parents and kids arrived to begin their daily rehearsals, only to discover that multiple items of value were stolen: the crew’s walkie-talkies, an Olive Drab Epiphany Casino electric guitar, a keyboard, a circular saw, an electric drill and an iPad..
“We were devastated,” said Chadwick. “We began to take stock of what had been stolen, and although the items weren’t worth much individually, they were valuable to the people who owned them.”
While Chadwick contacted the sheriff to report the burglary, 8-year-old Lucy Sky Levy-Longini, who plays the role of Klaudine, the hermit crab, sleuthed her way to a discovery: she found the stolen keyboard and guitar in the alleyway outside of the theater and immediately became queen of a ragtag team of juvenile private investigators that searched the property for additional clues. (Note to Chadwick: this could be a great storyline for 2023).
Since the LPRT crew only uses Park Hall for a few weeks each year, they didn’t have insurance on their belongings, and since Park Hall is a trust, they weren’t required to cover the cost of the stolen items.
“We took a pretty big hit on the losses,” said Chadwick.
More frustrating was the loss of the iPad. Valued at nearly $300, it was an essential component of note-taking and planning for the production. After the burglary, Chadwick was able to ping the iPad, and discovered it was right in downtown Ben Lomond. A parent was able to get a picture of the individual who had the stolen iPad, along with a photo of their car and license plate.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t been in touch with Chadwick to follow up on the $2,100 worth of stolen items, which she says is disheartening for their little nonprofit.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Ashley Kheen said Tuesday that detectives continue to work on the investigation and that no arrests have been made yet.
LPRT already has a relatively small operating budget, and now, “The set designer can’t meet deadlines due to the lost tools,” said Chadwick.
“It’s been a bummer,” said Chadwick. “We have 60 kids in our program that have endured the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire and subsequent evacuations. In 2021, we tried to reopen our shows, but had to cancel our run midway through due to Covid, and now this.”
Chadwick says it’s becoming less safe in the town of Ben Lomond.
“We’re seeing more crime, and it’s such a shame,” she said.
But there’s one bit of good news to put in the spotlight.
“Our director, Daria Troxell, is back,” Chadwick said. “She was on hiatus during Covid, but she’s returned to our team, and we’re so excited to have her with us.
“It’s just going to be such a great show. Being together and being able to put on a good production for the community is important to us all, but especially the kids. They live for this magical experience,” said Chadwick. “It’s a small town, and everyone works so hard. We know that it means a lot to our families in the show, but also to the neighbors who just really want to go back to normal. Things are hard in the world, for all of us, and it’s important to have this fun and preserve the creative space that we count on. We all want to do the little bit we can to keep our little world safe.”
Those wishing to donate to LPRT or purchase tickets for “Survivor Surf City: A Mermaid Odyssey” may do so by visiting lprt.org (the July 31 matinee is already sold out). Adults are $20; kids 12 and under are $15.