The SFArtsED Players, including, from left, Kiera Gerstley, Solveig O’Neill, Tyler Winslow, Christopher Napolitano-Mehlhorn, Kyomi DallsKidd and Jayden Tamboury, appear in virtual performances of “Once Upon a Mattress” March 18 and 20 in celebration of the company’s 20th anniversary season. (Courtesy Pete Belkin/San Francisco Arts Education Project)

The SFArtsED Players, including, from left, Kiera Gerstley, Solveig O’Neill, Tyler Winslow, Christopher Napolitano-Mehlhorn, Kyomi DallsKidd and Jayden Tamboury, appear in virtual performances of “Once Upon a Mattress” March 18 and 20 in celebration of the company’s 20th anniversary season. (Courtesy Pete Belkin/San Francisco Arts Education Project)

Youth group presents virtual ‘Mattress’ for 20th anniversary show

SFArtsED Players appear in fairy-tale musical comedy at the drive-in

“The show must go on… line,” has been the catchphrase for the intrepid performers in San Francisco Arts Education Project’s youth musical theater company, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a production of “Once Upon a Mattress.”

The virtual version of the “Princess and the Pea”-themed musical featuring 39 youngsters ages 9-14 is on the bill March 18 at the Fort Mason Flix Drive-in; on March 20, it will be available for streaming.

While the pandemic curtailed The SF Arts Ed Players’ original plans for a traditional performance and gala in the recently renovated Presidio Theater to mark the big birthday, the group, like many during the past year, changed gears.

Rehearsals for the recorded production of the 1959 musical which launched Carol Burnett’s career — and also was a part of the Players’ inaugural 2002-03 season — took place on Zoom in the fall. In January, filming, in front of a green screen, and recording, took place in the group’s Minnesota Street Project gallery.

“The Players unquestionably missed the old ways of making theater in-person, the precious contact with friends and mentors. But the work has kept them in a creative conversation and close to the thing they all love – performing,” said Emily Keeler, SFArtsED artistic director and company founder.

Director Danny Duncan, who has directed most of the Players’ productions over two decades, calls the performance “gorgeous” and points to the extraordinarily high quality the group has maintained.

“We don’t do kiddie theater. This is something that elevates us above the norm. I demand from children as I demand from professional adults, and they always rise to the occasion. Today there are numerous alums who are now theater professionals, living the lives of artists all over the world, practicing their art, having come from this program.”

The creative team of “Once Upon a Mattress” also includes choreographers Laura Elaine Ellis, Erin Gentry, and Jamie Yuen-Shore, set designer Stacey Ransom, costume designer Tiersa Nureyev, music director Peter Meredith, assistant director Charlotte Baldiviez and video producer Pete Belkin.

IF YOU GO

Once Upon a Mattress

Presented by The SFArtsED Players

Where: Fort Mason, 2 Marina Blvd., S.F.

When: 5 p.m. March 18 (gate opens at 4 p.m.)

Ticket: $100 per car

Contact: sfartsed.org/programs/sfartsed-players/ or eventbrite.com

Note: The show also streams at 5 p.m. March 20 at https://howlive.tv/ ; tickets are $25.

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