The Most Talented Kids in Town

05f0a67f 7907 4218 9ad8 900dd02d617eHairspray Jr. is the inaugural production for Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre (DMYAT) in their new performance home at the Stoner Studio Theatre in the Civic Center. While the huge cast is excited about playing there, it’s really about the fun and joy of Hairspray Jr., the family they’ve all created, and the show’s message of equality and acceptance that’s more important than ever.

Director David VanCleave has gathered together a cast of forty young singers and dancers, along with a crew of experienced theatre people and student apprentices, to bring the world of Hairspray to the Stoner stage. Leading the charge is Anastasia Deace as Tracy Turnblad. 


Good Morning, Theatre

Hairspray is only my third show,” says Anastasia, “so getting the part of Tracy was HUGE for me. My first show ever was Willy Wonka at the Des Moines Playhouse this past December. I played Violet Beauregard, the gum-chewing hoodlum who blew up like a blueberry. I had always wanted to be a recording artist, but after landing that role, I became obsessed with musical theatre!”


“After that, I decided to audition for my first DMYAT show (my second show), School of Rock, and was an ensemble member. I enjoyed going from a main role to an ensemble role because it really taught me the importance of every role in a show. Considering I’ve only worked with the two theatres, they both have a very special place in my heart. However, I have become quite attached to DMYAT due to the fact that I’ve really found a family with all of these people.”


57f78f94 88ee 4756 b43b 47641fa2fed7“I’m always surprised when a group of people welcomes me with such open arms. I’ve been homeschooled my whole life, and never really had many social groups other than my siblings. However, DMYAT has really welcomed me, and that was a wonderful surprise!”


“The biggest thing I want my cast and I to take away from this show is a positive attitude, and the family we’re creating. I love meeting new people and creating bonds, and we’ve all really bonded! I also love to see people who were shy at first really blossom into a social butterfly.”


Run and Tell That!

As Assistant Director, Isabel Daza gets to guide Anastasia and the rest of the cast through their paces. It’s the type of responsibility she takes very seriously, both at DMYAT and in a leadership role with Girls Rock! Des Moines. 


“When being a leader for children whose passions lie within the arts and self-expression, I value honesty and support above all else. I view my role as to show kids their craft is appreciated and loved, as well as who they are as humans. When it came to Girls Rock! DSM, I was chosen to lead young girls through a path of communicating raw honesty through music. Now, working with DMYAT, I feel that pull to show kids that their perspective in which they see their world is valid, and should be shared without fear.”


A0f90640 2c57 443b 94e9 911e099e5879WIth Hairspray, while parts of the show are bright colors and great dance music, there’s also a very serious message going on about inequality, race, and personal identity. Isabel is helping the young cast gain a perspective on these issues while being able to enjoy the fun as well.


“Watching [the movie version of] Hairspray growing up, I was definitely shaken to the core on the intensities of everything they portrayed on the screen. All the kids have a connection to the ‘not so subtle’ overlapping that happens throughout Tracy’s journey in relation to today’s issues.”


“We are very careful not to beat the children down with politics, but as David says, honesty is the key to an actor’s believable qualities within each character. Every cast member can relate to the story to any degree in which they so choose, but they all take the matter seriously and respect the direction we give them to help uphold the story.”


“I value the fact that DMYAT has created a space that lets these kids be who they are, plus coexist with people from all walks of life. I came from a background of confusion and a need for answers, and I worked with kids who knew who they were and just needed a platform to express themselves. DMYAT has given me a chance to pursue my passions whether that be onstage or off.”


Welcome to Yourself

While Hairspray is set in Baltimore in the early 1960’s, the issues of youth discovering the world, and discovering themselves, are eternal. As Tracy, Anastasia has learned much from exploring the part, and hopes that others can share in what she’s learned in her journey.


83b405a2 8fc0 4312 bb93 66822047a86f“I feel like Tracy and I are both very hopeful people. She stays positive, and that’s definitely something I try to do. I love giving others hope and joy for the future, and the more I dive into Tracy’s character, I feel like she’s the same way.”


“The one difference I see between Tracy and I is the fact that she’s always willing to go for whatever she wants without any doubt in her mind. While I’m always willing to go for what I want, I definitely doubt self sometimes and that’s something that Tracy is helping me overcome!”


“From body image to integration, Hairspray is a show that all generations can relate to! I think Tracy is a character that shows women no matter what you look like, you can feel confident in yourself, and love yourself for who you were created to be.”


“Tracy’s attitude towards life has really made an impact on how I look at different situations. When you take a step back from a bad situation, breathe, and stay positive, it can really change your whole perspective!”


DMYAT and the cast and crew invite you to discover Baltimore in the 1960’s, and perhaps a new perspective on today, when they present Hairspray Jr. beginning Friday October 20th and running through Sunday October 29th. Performances are at the Stoner Studio Theatre in the Civic Center, and tickets are available through the Civic Center website, in person at the Civic Center ticket office, or by phone at 515-246-2300

David VanCleave Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre Hairspray Jr! Anastasia Deace Isabel Daza