In the big city, four IU students are toiling with the "hardest profession in the world." An adult show, with an adult budget and adult demands are being placed on young performers who are meeting the rising bar, as they rehearse for this week's opening of Indianapolis' Civic Theatre's production of "The Secret Garden."\nRecent graduate Carla Moebius, junior James Neff, junior Katie Stark and junior Simon Stout are all representing IU's talent bank as they form a contingent of leaders and role models in the Civic's Young Adult Summer Musical program, of which "The Secret Garden" is a part. \nThe program began 14 years ago and provides opportunities for performers of the ages 14 to 21 to work with a professional production staff in a sophisticated venue.\nPeggy Cranfill, Director of Youth Programs, emphasizes the advantage of experience that the program lends to the students.\n"Participating in and seeing a professionally supported production improves young people's imaginative and creative thinking which fosters better performance skills and appreciation for the arts," Cranfill said. \nStout, portraying Dai the gardener, has a background of experience in Indianapolis theatre and agrees with Cranfill. He said in addition to the professionalism displayed by the production staff, the cast too exhibits an air of maturity. \n"These kids are just as professional and easy to work with as the adults I've worked with in theatre," Stout said.\nStark furthers this notion as she explains that this attitude of experience is much needed due to the nature of the show at hand.\n"It's definitely not written for young adults. It's intricate and demands a lot of work," Stark said.\nThough it proves difficult, Moebius shows no doubt in her fellow cast members.\n"These main characters are definitely of a professional quality," Moebius said.\n"The Secret Garden" is based on the 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The script and lyrics are by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon. The musical tells the story of Mary Lennox who is sent to live with her uncle Archibald, portrayed by Neff, in England after being orphaned when a cholera epidemic in India killed her parents. Grieving for his deceased wife Lily, Archibald sets a somber mood over his household, until Mary arrives, discovering a secret garden that once belonged to her uncle's deceased lover. By nursing the garden back to life, Mary brings a vibrancy back into the lives of her uncle and his sick son. \nAccompanied by flashbacks, a chorus of ghosts -- led by Moebius and Stark -- and some of the most hauntingly beautiful music written for the Broadway stage, this theatrical journey is said to be a must-see tale of regeneration for all ages.\n"It's a show for everybody. It's about family and love, things that impact all our lives. The themes are universal," Stout said.\nThe unity, however, does not end on the stage. As a part of the Civic's Young Adult program, these IU cast members are serving as mentors to the up and coming performers cast with them in the show.\n"There are quite a few cast members still in high school. I enjoy giving my experience to the them," Stark said\nBut don't expect the evening to be completely comprised of primroses, tea and cake. The story definitely has some dark overtones. There are themes of rejection, jealousy and loss. Neff said this aspect of the show has made his personal experience more unique when compared to the roles he's played in more traditional musicals. \n"It's not like a Danny Zukko (Grease), where you can just jump in and be fun. This is definitely more mentally challenging. It's vocally difficult and acting intense, but in the end, it's extremely rewarding," Neff said.\n"The Secret Garden" will open on the Civic Theatre's main stage Friday. Performances will continue on July 26, 27 and 28. The Friday and Saturday shows will commence at 8 p.m., and the Sunday performances will begin at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for main floor seating and $10 for groups of 15 or more. Tickets may be purchased at the theater's box office or by phone at (317) 923-4597.
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