Samantha Cormier is about to face her toughest audience:
Cormier is directing "Miss Nelson Is Missing!" at All Together Theatre, Live Theatre Workshop's family arm. The play, based on the book by Harry Allard and James Marshall and adapted for the stage by Jeffrey Hatcher, opens Sunday.
Kids love to talk back to actors, squirm in their seats and are easily distracted from the action on stage.
Cormier is ready.
"You always have to keep the drama going, the movement going - anything to keep the kids from looking off stage at something that has nothing to do with the show," Cormier says about directing a play for children.
"Whenever we can, we add something silly," she says. "I do it to keep them laughing and incredibly engaged with what's on stage. And I always find ways to incorporate the kids in the show."
Cormier is used to working with children - she is a teacher at Civano Elementary in Vail, as well as at Live Theatre Workshop.
But she also has a cast that's peppered with teachers, which helped them tap into their inner third-grader, the age of the many characters in the play.
"I told them to just act like their students," Cormier says with a laugh.
And to exaggerate that behavior, we suspect: The Miss Nelson in the title is as sweet as can be, and her seven students are not. They hoot, they holler, they ignore instructions and are just plain rowdy.
One day the children come to class and Miss Nelson is missing. In her place is a substitute with black hair, a mole and a no-nonsense attitude. She insists the kids shape up, and she's too mean and scary to not obey.
Naturally, those kids want Miss Nelson back, and they set off on a hunt to do just that.
The book was published in 1977 and was one of Cormier's favorites when she was a child- though she swears she was nothing like Miss Nelson's students.
"I was a perfect angel, of course."
And, she's hoping, her young audiences will be the same. Even if they aren't, she can't wait for Sunday's opening.
"I love doing children's theater," she said. "They have this high energy, and hearing those kids' laughter - there's nothing more infectious. That laughter makes it well worth it."
If you go
• What: All Together Theatre's production of "Miss Nelson Is Missing!"
• By: Jeffrey Hatcher, adapted from the book by Harry Allard and James Marshall.
• Director: Samantha Cormier.
• When: 12:30 p.m. Sundays through July 14.
• Where: Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway.
• Tickets: $7-$10, with discounts available.
• Reservations, information: 327-4242.
• Running time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
• Cast: Lisa Bodden (teacher at St. Gregory College Prep); Evan Cipra; Kyle Everly; Chelsea Force; Joshua Furtado; Amanda Gremel (teaches at LTW); Richard Gremel (Empire High School teacher); Leslie J. Miller (LTW teacher); Emilio Zweig.
Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4128.