Childrens Theatres Explore the Holidays
So often, we associate “children’s theatre” with “running around in big furry costumes spouting cutesy dialogue” (witty description per playwright Allison Gregory), and “Christmas shows” with the same old retellings of the Nativity or Nutcracker (as Dave mentioned Tuesday). But, we’re often too busy to even think of those types of theatre, let alone putting them together, for the holidays seem to come earlier every year (did Black Friday begin on Thursday…?) – sometimes it seems like ‘tis the season for selfishness and stress! This season, two theatres are surpassing those stereotypes and producing quality holiday productions for audiences of all ages, providing the perfect way for families to spend time together, enjoy themselves, and move beyond the overwhelming focus on gifts and wanting more.
Beavercreek Community Theatre’s A Christmas Carol and Town Hall Theatre’s Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells both open this weekend. While extremely different shows, both feature youth performers and share conceptual similarities: they may seem like lighthearted Christmas fare, and audiences of all ages will definitely laugh and enjoy themselves, but also walk away with a little something else to consider.
Beavercreek Community Theatre’s Children’s Theatre presents Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; the structure of this adaptation is unique because it features a “play-within-a-play,” exploring the famous allegory as a story passed down from grandfather to grandson when young Thomas struggles to understand the reason for giving hard-earned money away to the poor. As the traditional story goes and Thomas’ grandfather shares, visits to his past, present, and future teach Scrooge the loneliness of his selfish, stingy ways and inspire him to change his life.
Teresa Connair, who directs the 34-member cast of students ages 8 – 18, has worked with children’s theatre for over fifteen years and began the Children’s Theatre branch (a unique facet not shared by many of the
other Dayton theatres) at BCT five years ago. Along with performing in shows, students can participate in educational initiatives and classes at BCT, and help choose children’s productions; approximately half of the cast members have participated in BCT’s Children’s Theatre in some way before.
For this show, Connair has worked with the cast not only on scenes, but also on qualities important in life. She commented,
“We try and teach professionality to these kids, and how to develop a character, build a character, be real onstage – not just say lines, and I think they do an excellent job. They constantly surprise me, and that’s not easy to do.”
That training evidently is successful, for Connair stressed the professional quality of this production. That professionalism and the fresh angle to a familiar story both ensure A Christmas Carol is unique, excellent, and worth fitting into a busy holiday schedule.
Town Hall Theatre’s Landmark Children’s Theatre’s current production, Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, also promises to entertain and impress. Some may remember THT’s well-loved and hilarious production last season of Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business, exploring Junie B.’s kindergarten escapades; in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, Junie B. is now in first grade and has grown up a little bit – this show features her parents less, and explores the relationships and events she deals with at school. Not only does Junie B. draw the name of May, her avid nemesis, for the school “Secret Santa” gift exchange, but both girls are required to perform together in the school’s holiday pageant.
Though many adults are unfamiliar with them, the Junie B. book series, by Barbara Park, is extremely popular with children; even if you have never heard of the books, however, the play and characters stand alone and will make sense. Junie B. reflects the lives and struggles of kids now, but adult audiences will also reminisce and remember the same things that the characters are encountering. Playwright Allison Gregory, who was commissioned by Childsplay, Inc., to adapt the books for the stage, explained that the magic of the story and characters is how perfectly Park expresses the way kids think, “yet within that impulsive, boundless world, she builds a highly structured, meaningful story.”
Gregory’s adaptation and THT’s production align perfectly with this description, and the cast has had a lot of fun exploring it! Director Brittany Hayden-Hinkle, also THT’s Education Director, discussed how rewarding working with the kids has been:
“I really enjoy them as actors and just as people. Where else would you be discussing burp noises and what “squeeze a burp” should look like? The kids… bring an energy that is positively indescribable; they care so much about the shows they work on! And they never take themselves too seriously.”
Both A Christmas Carol and Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells will provide audience members with not only a great distraction from the consumerism and stress of the holidays, but a perfect way to go beyond our typical conceptions about the holidays and theatre to reflect on what’s truly important. Hayden-Hinkle expressed thoughts about Junie B. that reflects the depth of Christmas Carol as well:
“The show encourages kids to look past themselves during the holidays and reach out to those who need a little help. Sometimes the right thing is pretty hard to do but it’s always worth it in the end!”
So, this December, take your family or friends to see one of these two great children’s shows, and move beyond the typical conceptions, enjoying yourself and laughing in the process.
Tickets and Performance Information
A Christmas Carol: Beavercreek Community Theatre
December 3 – 12, 2010 – Fridays/Saturdays at 7:00 pm; Sundays at 3:00 pm
Call the Box Office at 937-429-4737 or visit Beavercreek Community Theatre!
Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells: Town Hall Theatre
December 3 – 19, 2010 – Fridays through Sundays (multiple performance times; check website!)
Call the box office at -937-433-8957 or visit Town Hall Theatre!
Or, check out the contest below…
Win Free Tickets!
Beavercreek Community Theatre, Town Hall Theatre, & onStageDayton on DaytonMostMetro.com have teamed up to give you a chance to win tickets to each of these shows! We will be giving away up to five sets of four tickets total for the second or third weekends of these terrific shows! We have three sets for A Christmas Carol and two for Junie B. Jones. And since we’re giving away four tickets to each winner, your family can come together. All you need to do is:
SUBMIT PRESS RELEASES
Would you like to submit theater news for DaytonMostMetro.com’s onStageDayton features? Email Shane, Dave & Katherine at onStageDayton@gmail.com
Katherine Nelson is a senior theatre major at Cedarville University who focuses on performance, playwriting, and stage management. She’s the Literary Intern with locally basedEncore Theater Company, where contributors Shane Anderson and David Brush also work. The local theater company recently moved into the new arts collective space in the Oregon Arts District, along with Zoot Theatre Co & Rhythm In Shoes. Encore Theater Company has a mission to help develop new works of musical theater, most recently Next Thing You Know and The Proof, two new musicals in development.