The Boxcar Children

By Barbara Field

Directed by Graham Killeen
July 26 to August 11, 2013

Read the Reviews:
Waukesha Freeman, WaukeshaNOW

Click on a photo to see a larger image

Photos By Carroll Studios Of Photography

Volunteer of the Production

Debbie Volden

Sponsored In Part By

WCT projects are supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.


Phillip Alonge

Big Mike

Kendal Briscoe


Pernell Dorsey


Jerry Effner

The Baker

Sam Evert


John Galobich

Officer Banning/Sheriff

Dylan Garza

The Kid

Katie Homar

Sarah Calder

Sydney Kaine


Karl Magsig

Henry Alden

Jim Mallmann

Dr. Samuel Truman

Mina Miller

Mrs. Truman

Holly Penzkover

Mrs. Alberts

Jim Volden

Mr. Alden

Production Staff 


Graham Killeen

Assistant to the Director

Amy Kottke

Scenic Designer/Master Carpenter/Properties Designer

Bruce Towell

Costume Designer

Mercedes Killeen

Lighting/Production Designer

Jon Kline

Sound Designer

Jacob Johnson

Assistant Stage Managers

Elena Cramer
Katie Kottke

Light Board Operator

Joe Kolonko

Hair Stylist

Kim Kapitan

Set Construction Crew

Nate Crites
Paul Hacker
Steve Koehler
Payl Meyer
Brian Morin
Mark Penzkover
Monica Santroch
Josh Schiebe
Terry Schroeder
Cindy Velcheck
Ryan Velcheck
Debbie Volden
Jim Volden

Costume Construction Crew

Dana Brzezinski
Sallie Burkard
Karen Jones
Lee Piekarski
Sharon Sohner

Children excel in 'Boxcar Children'

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic
August 1, 2013

WAUKESHA - The play "Boxcar Children," playing at the Waukesha Civic Theatre, is based on the first of a series of books written about the Alden children, who lost their parents in a drowning accident when they were quite young. Barbara Field's adaptation changes the ages somewhat from the original novel written by Gertrude Chandler Warner. She makes Jessie and Henry twins about 15, Violet 10 and Benny 8.

Set in the Great Depression in Chicago in 1930, we see the children, afraid that they will be separated, decide to run off and try to live on their own. They eventually end up living in an empty box car and support themselves by spending the little money they have wisely, rummaging through the dump for needed household objects and relying on the money that Henry got doing odd jobs for the local doctor.

Meanwhile, they have to elude the cop and the social worker looking for them, as well as everyone else who wants to cash in on the reward for their capture. Their strength, ingenuity and bravery are challenged, but their resolve to stay together supersedes all odds.

The adults they encounter along the way are a mixed bag. Some are kind and truly have the children's welfare at heart - Sarah and Dr. Truman are two good examples. Others look upon the children as burdensome or suspicious, including Officer Banning, Mrs. Alberts, the Baker and Mr. Alden. Big Mike and Cookie are a mixed bag, but turn out to be good guys in the end.

The most delightful aspect of this production is the cast of four children who comprise the Alden family. The four characters that Warner created are quite distinct, and the quartet of actors who portrayed them captured their individuality. I was especially impressed with the rough-and-tumble scenes that they handled with such ease and realism without getting hurt in the process. I attribute the success of these scenes to the fine direction of Graham Killeen and to their ability to learn from his expertise.

Henry (Karl Magsig), Jessie (Sydney Kaine), Violet (Kendal Briscoe) and Benny (Sam Evert) are all strong actors, easily heard, well-prepared and credible in their roles. It is rare to see four children who handle their parts so competently. No apparent flubs, whatsoever.

The adult roles that bear mention are those of Sarah (Katie Komar), Dr. Truman (Jim Mallman) and Cookie (Pernell Dorsey).

The fate of these four orphans is of obvious interest to many children. After writing the first 19 books, Warner's heritage was picked up by various other writers and expanded to a series of 133 subsequent books. I can't think of many other children's literature authors who can claim such sustained popularity.

Kudos to director Graham Killeen, costumer Mercedes Killeen, set designer Bruce Towell and all the others who put together this entertaining and inspiring story.

Review Title

By Reviewer Name
Posted: Month 16, 2012

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'Boxcar Children's' young cast charms the audience at
Waukesha Civic Theatre

Resourceful kids at heart of show, based on book series
By Marilyn Jozwik - WaukeshaNOW Theater Critic
Aug. 2, 2013

Who wouldn't love the four resourceful children, who set off on their own after their parents die, in "The Boxcar Children?"

Waukesha Civic Theatre has found four amazing young actors to portray the quartet in their version of the play, based on a series of popular children's books. The play is set in 1930 near Chicago.

The four children in the story, twins Jessie and Henry; Violet, and Benny, overhear authorities discussing their tragic case — their parents have just died in a boating accident trying to save their children. Because the youngest, Benny, has been deemed "slow" they feel it would be best to separate him from the others. Upon hearing this, the four decide to escape into the woods, pursued relentlessly by Officer Banning, who is armed with a large reward for their return.

After running away from the school principal at the boarding school and the social worker (Holly Penzkover and Katie Homar), the four fugitives meet various adults, including the mean baker (Jerry Effner) who accuses them of trying to steal his pastries; two homeless men and a young boy (Phillip Alonge, Pernell Dorsey and Dylan Garza); and a small town "sawbones" and his mother (Jim Mallmann and Mina Miller).

The children move deeper into the woods as their would-be captors close in on them and find an old boxcar that they turn into a home. Each brings a distinctive set of skills to their new family. Jessie is the practical one, making lists and plans to achieve goals. Henry is smart, loves to read and turns out to be the family breadwinner. Violet is fastidious to a fault, but knows the value of cleanliness and healthy cooking. Benny, who is slow at learning — probably because he's dyslexic — learns that he has a gift for inventing and repairing things.

The two younger children, Violet and Benny, are the most vulnerable and Jessica and Henry try to buoy them up with their optimism. They devise a game for their journey, scoring points whenever they accomplish an element en route to their independence. Theirs is a happy home until one of them becomes sick and they must trust the adults in their life — including a long-lost grandfather (Jim Volden).

It is the sort of show every child should see to understand we need few material goods to make us happy. All the four want is to keep their new, abbreviated family intact, and they will fight and use all their wits to do that.

The children are indeed endearing and charming. As Henry, Karl Magsig has a precise, crystal clear speaking voice and sincere, earnest demeanor as the young lad who must grow into a man almost overnight. Sydney Kaine as Jessie, transforms nicely from a demure young teen into the mother hen, fearless in her safety in order to protect her family. Kendal Briscoe is perhaps the most entertaining of the kids, taking her Violet role to a whole new level. A "germophobe," her whole body quakes at the prospect of encountering anything unclean. Each child does their best to contribute to the family's well-being, like when Violet wrestles Benny to the ground to try to clean his dirty face. Sam Evert as Benny fits into this group like a hand in a glove. The youngster jockeys wonderfully between playful curiosity and bouts of missing his parents. He latches on to any adult that comes into his life like a leech.

The four manage the revolving stage quite well and the show's director Graham Killen has them well-prepared for the staged tricky staging. The four became one cohesive unit by the play's end.

Adults in the play were somewhat cartoonish , especially the bumbling Officer Banning played by John Galobich. An especially cute scene, which had the look of a silent movie, is when the officer stumbles onto the children's home in the woods. The kids hide in a line right behind him as the officer pans the area looking for the runaway kids.

The scenes in which the children try to fend off their would-be captors are also done in sort of a slo-mo, cartoonish style, which the kids really have fun with. All four were very adept at the physicality of the show.

Though just a small role, Jerry Effner as the baker is a hoot as he terrorizes the kids with a rolling pin outside his bakery.

The overambitious staging left the show with some uneven pacing. There were several awkward pauses in the action on opening night and the lurching revolving stage had actors hanging on to set pieces as though on a slow-moving carnival ride.

This show, however, is worth seeing for the wonderful story of four kids who truly know the value of family and how to make home "where the heart is." And to see this young foursome carry out that message so effectively.

Student Discount is available for children and any patron who is able to display a current student ID. Senior discount applies to all patrons 60 years or older.

For our "Pay What You Can" performances, patrons can buy tickets for that show on the day of the performance at whatever price their budget will allow.

Subscriber Discount is available to any subscriber for unlimited additional tickets outside their package.

10 ticket minimum per performance required.

Educational Group Rate is only available for all educational groups and Boy and Girl Scout troops. 10 ticket minimum per performance required.

Volunteer of the Production - Debbie Volden

This is the second time Debbie has received this recognition, a testament to her value to WCT! Debbie was at every performance, many rehearsals, helped move heavy set pieces, planned cast meals, kept track of props, and supported everyone. Some of the comments from her fellow cast and crew members include: "She was outstanding!" "We couldn’t have done it without her!" and "She really made a difference in my life!"