At 10 years old, Marilyn Harris knows more than people twice her age. She knows what she wants.
She wants to act. She wants to go to New York. She wants to study at Juilliard.
What: Steamboat Springs Middle School presents "Cinderella" When: 7 p.m. April 8, 9 and 10 with a performance at 1 p.m. April 10 for children who are invited to dress up as princes and princesses Where: Steamboat Spring High School Auditorium Tickets: $10; available at the middle school or at the door
The epiphany came last summer, she said, when she was on stage at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School playing a small part in "Sunday in the Park with George."
"We were doing act one, the finale, and I got this weird feeling," Harris said. "It hit me. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life."
Her career continues this week in the Steamboat Springs Middle School production of "Cinderella." Harris plays a rather depressed stepsister named Joy, one in a cast of almost 120 students and a crew of another 150-plus students.
Anyone who wanted to participate was given a chance.
On Tuesday, students had spent the morning taking CSAPs and were preparing themselves for an afternoon of rehearsals.
Handling such a large cast and crew is a challenge for director Rusty De Lucia, and that's exactly why she does it. De Lucia has been teaching students from kindergarten to college for decades. This is her favorite.
"Children this age are so vibrant and alive," De Lucia said. "They are so honest, and I love that honesty."
The lighting, sets and sound for the play were designed by student crews of sixth-, seventh- and eight-graders, headed by faculty members.
For many, this is their first time on stage or backstage. De Lucia's instruction is laying the groundwork for high school, college and, for students such as Harris, beyond.
"These are all new actors and actresses," De Lucia said. "I tell them that they need their own private time to get into character. I tell them to do a kind of meditation."
She chose "Cinderella," first because it's a popular story that everyone knows but also because it's age appropriate, she said. "I'm not going to force any of these kids to grow up before they're ready. You'll notice that even in the most intimate scenes, they hold hands but don't kiss."
The Cinderella story you'll see on stage April 8, 9 and 10, is the original Rodgers and Hammerstein version from Broadway.
"We haven't cut anything," De Lucia said.
The most important part in casting this version of Cinderella was matching the singing voices with the songs the character must sing. Rachel Ivancie, 13, was chosen to play Cinderella because of her voice, De Lucia said. Ivancie studied voice with Emerald City Opera founder Keri Rusthoi and recently with "Cinderella" music director Susie Ritter.
"I really wanted to be in this play," Ivancie said. "I was in 'Annie' last year. I was a small part, but it was so fun." The hard part of playing her first lead role was learning the lines in time. She and her parents picked a new scene each night and practiced it in the kitchen until Ivancie knew her part.
Taylor Anderson, 13, learned the part of the prince in much the same way -- reading lines at night with his mom.
"I wanted this part really bad," Anderson said. "I was in the play in sixth and seventh grade, but I wanted to be the lead this year."
As he learned his lines, he also learned the character.
"The prince (named Christopher) is a really nice guy, but he gets angry when things don't go his way. He's very emotional. I think it's because he does a lot by himself," Anderson said. "It's fun to go up there and be someone you're not."