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Roundabout with Micah: In the spotlight – Marquee Youth Stage: Mystage

Sitting in the front row of the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, I watch kids race around the stage dressed as animal characters, sit quietly for makeup and practice dance moves I can only dream of completing. This is Marquee Youth Stage: Mystage, and its new show, “King of the Pride.”

Marquee Youth Stage: Mystage is a community-
youth theater based out of St. Charles. “King of the Pride” is a show that draws from “The Lion King,” as well as traditional African music. This particular cast ranges in age from 5 to 18. Many participate as siblings and families.

The cast gathers for pre-show notes, and I take a moment to look around at the diversity and energy in this young group. Despite their young ages, let it be known that these are professionals who are passionate and excited about their lives in the theater.

One family I speak with is the Zimmermann family. Mary Emma Zimmermann, 11, plays Timon and sits down to talk to me while she and her sister, Olivia, get their makeup done for the show.

Mary Emma Zimmerman says her favorite thing about “King of the Pride” is that “it’s really fun and cool to meet new people all the time.”

Olivia Zimmermann, 14, sits quietly for her Zazu makeup. The two sisters have been involved in Mystage since the 2011 production of “Annie.”

Olivia Zimmermann says she and her sister auditioned, at the urging of their mother, for “Annie” on the condition that “neither of us would sing or talk.”

The girls have come a long way since that first production as they star in this new show, “King of the Pride.”

Of course, who could forget the third member of the Zimmermann family, Jonah Zimmermann, who plays young Simba. Jonah Zimmermann sits down with me to talk about his experience in the show, which is all about the fun costumes, his favorite song – “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” – and his past shows. At age 8, Jonah Zimmermann already has performed in the Mystage productions of “Alice in Wonderland,” “Willy Wonka,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin.” His favorite part of these shows is “probably the singing,” Jonah Zimmermann says.

Jack Nelson, 16, plays Mufasa and talks excitedly about this show when I get a chance to talk to him. After being involved in Mystage for eight months, he says his favorite part of the experience is “just the atmosphere and the people.”

This recurring theme of people and the tight bonds between the cast just goes to show how important community and youth programs like Mystage are to these young actors and actresses.

You can get involved in Marquee Youth Stage: Mystage by attending its shows, volunteering to help administrate or auditioning for a future show. More information can be found at or by emailing Mystage founder Connie Flores at

• Micah Andersen is a senior at Geneva High School who will be attending Judson University in the fall. She loves poetry, stories and has a blog at Contact her at

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