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Coterie unlocks the bridge to ‘Terabithia’

Leslie (Haley Waiff) in Terabithia.Leslie (Haley Waiff) in Terabithia. 

If you want to see some of Kansas City’s most impressive youth thespians, check out the Coterie Theatre’s “Bridge to Terabithia,” showing through Feb. 27.

“Bridge to Terabithia,” a 1977 Newberry award-winning novel by Katherine Paterson, was first adapted to the big screen in 1985 and made a second comeback as a Disney movie in 2007.

“Bridge to Terabithia” tells the story of Jesse, an alienated boy in rural Virginia. A big-city girl, Leslie, gives him a glimpse into a world of imagination, literature and art. Terabithia is an imagined kingdom safe for those who aren’t normally accepted or understood by society.

The actors and actresses sang and even danced a little, but what was really impressive was watching such talented youth perform perfectly, never missing a line.

The main stars who played Jesse Aarons and Leslie Burke are in middle school, but both actors held several roles in previous performances before debuting at the Coterie.

Aarons was played by Marshall Hopkins of Warren Middle School in Leavenworth, Kan., and Burke was played by Haley Wolff of Pleasant Lea Middle School in Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Other stars ranged from early middle school to high school. Megan Secrest played the role of May Belle Aarons and kept the audience rolling in fits of laughter as she played a whiny younger sister.

The actors of “Bridge to Terabithia” and director Jeff Church held a question-and-answer session after the show.

“These kids are young, but [they] receive no special treatment,” Church said. “The actors practice for three weeks, every day but Mondays. These professional rehearsals last anywhere from six to eight hours. All [of the actors] are a part of our Master acting class. We found them through classes and summer camps. They are advanced acting students.”

Coleman Crenshaw, who played Mr. Aarons, thanked the crowd for its continued patronage, stressed the educational programs the Coterie offers students, and emphasized the importance of funding and sponsorship to the arts.

The production of “Bridge to Terabithia” was possible because of donations from the Missouri Arts Council (MAC) and the ArtsKC Fund.

The Coterie is anything but your average theater.

Now in its 32nd season, the Coterie Theatre has been listed by TIME as “One of the 5 Best Theatres for Young Audiences in the U.S.”

If you are interested in checking out “Bridge to Terabithia” or other Coterie productions, student tickets are only $5.

Show times vary by date. The Coterie Theatre is at 2450 Grand Blvd. inside the Crown Center Shops. For more information visit

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