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For the Orlandos, acting is a family affair

The Orlando family has turned Children’s Castle Theater productions into a family bonding activity.

It is not uncommon for young families to enjoy the occasional family bonding activity, such as a bike ride or game night, but it’s not every family that acts in plays together. This weekend, the Orlando family — mom and dad Kirsten and Joey and children Lexi and Gabriel — will star in their fifth play together in five years.

Lexi, a seventh grader at Rosemount Middle School, will play the lead in Children’s Castle Theater’s premiere of Yo Vikings!, an energetic musical that follows the story of fifth-grader Emma Katz, whose wild imagination sometimes gets her into trouble, but this time allows her to save the local library from being shut down.

Lexi’s brother Gabriel, a freshman at Rosemount High School, will play the viking Olaf; her dad will play Bothvar, the head viking; and her mom will play a viking as well.

Although Joey Orlando did quite a bit of acting in high school and college and enjoyed it a great deal, he hadn’t been involved in theater for 20 years until his daughter rekindled his interest about five years ago. Lexi started to express an interest in theater and secured a role as an extra in Peter Pan. Shortly afterward, her brother decided he’d like to give it a try too.

“They talked me into trying out, and the rest is history,” Joey Orlando said.

They convinced Kirsten to become involved the following year. So far the family has participated in Children’s Castle Theater’s productions of Peter Pan, Jack Frost, Tarzan and Honk!, a musical adaptation of The Ugly Duckling.

“I mostly enjoy the acting and playing different fun roles, but especially to be able to do it with the family,” Orlando said. “My wife and I can do something with the kids together without having to be in charge of them.”

Orlando said he loves being able to see his children interact with their peers in a fun setting, and he appreciates that all of Children’s Castle Theater’s plays are intergenerational, encouraging interaction between children and adults.

“Over the years it’s been nice to see how it increases self esteem and all these other qualities,” he said. “It’s really unique. It’s a fun experience to be together.”

Orlando said this year’s play has even forced the Wisconsin native and Green Bay Packer fan to step out of his comfort zone, much to the amusement of his Minnesota Vikings-loving wife.

“It’s a stretch to play a viking,” Orlando said. “I said I’ll play a viking if I can wear green and gold.”

Children’s Castle Theater started in Farmington and still rehearses in the city. Yo, Vikings! debuts at the Lakeville Area Arts Center on Feb. 12 and will run on weekends through Feb. 21. Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for students 12 and under, and $8 for seniors and can be purchased at The Lakeville Arts Center is located at 20965 Holyoke Ave in Lakeville.