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Student performers embark on European adventure

The experience of their young lives gets even better today when 20 Kaua’i children fly from the island en route to stage performances in Europe.

The students, all 12 to 16 years old, were selected by Hawai’i Children’s Theater to represent the United States at the Expo 2000 World’s Fair in Hanover, Germany. They’ll perform there and at The Big Youth Theatre Festival near London, England July 13-16.

During their travels through Europe, including France, many of the Kauaians will see snow for the first time, view legendary artwork in museums and shake hands with the German chancellor.

Such once-in-a-lifetime experiences are what Jenie Gurber, one of the Kaua’i performers, couldn’t wait for as she packed Monday for the trip.

“I really want to see the Eiffel Tower. It’s one of those world landmarks you should see if you can,” she said.

Gurber, 14, a student at Island School, already is living a dream as part of the Hawai’i Children’s Theatre troupe.

“When I was picked, I was really excited because I’d never been in a group like this,” she said. The aspiring singer and stage performer “always wanted to be in performing arts. This experience will boost my self-esteem in pursuing that as a career.” The collection of thespians were chosen through auditions. Since then, they’ve practiced at least twice a week since March-daily since the school year ended in June.

In England-where they’ll convene with more than 500 other youth performers from around the world-and Germany, their performances will include Broadway numbers and skits based on Hawaiian legends.

They tuned up with shows on Kaua’i last month.

For most of the students, this will be their first international exposure, although Hawai’i Children’s Theatre has participated in four other cultural events overseas.

“It’s an honor to be working with and accompanying these kids,” said Bobbee Downs, who, as the theater group’s executive director, will be one of five adult chaperones in the entourage. “Putting all this together is a lot of work and a tremendous responsibility. But the experience changes the way these children see the world.” That includes their definition of traveling light. Restricted to only one suitcase, they’ve learned to pack creatively.

“It’s pretty tight,” Gruber said of her lone bag.

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