Friday, December 6, 2013

BACT Blogger Genevieve Interviews Actor Derek Collard

Genevieve is back with another interview! This time, the young blogger got to chat with DerekTravis Collard who plays Frog in A Year With Frog and Toad, currently playing at Bay Area Children's Theatre. Genevieve is eleven years old and in fourth grade at Kensington Hilltop Elementary. She attended her first live theater performance at three years old. Genevieve also enjoys acting, particularly in musicals, playing the piano, writing, reading, traveling, and playing sports with her friends. She lives in Kensington with her parents and two younger siblings.
If you are age 9 and up and want to write a blog about your experience with BACT, email


My Interview of Derek Collard
By Genevieve, Age 11

     Okay, first off, I have to say that the newest Bay Area Children’s Theatre (BACT) production, A Year with Frog and Toad, was amazing! There was great singing and acting and it captured the feeling of the books. The scenery and costumes were really cool, creative, fun, and looked a lot like the original artwork by Arnold Lobel. I laughed out loud so many times! Thank you to all of the people who put time into this musical…the work really showed!

Actor DerekTravis Collard
     All right, now on to the interview with Derek Collard, the actor who has been in many BACT productions, this time playing Frog in A Year with Frog and Toad. Derek is also the Development Coordinator for BACT. Derek is an amazing actor and is really funny and exciting.

      A Development Coordinator is the person in charge of fundraising for the company. They work on getting donations from people and getting attention for, in this case, a play. Derek Collard says that his most successful fundraising project was the kick starter video he created for Ivy and Bean.

      Derek started acting at the age of eight. His first play was Peter Pan, which was a world premiere, so he traveled around the world as a Lost Boy. It took two years, so Derek had to have tutors on the road.

      If Derek could act in ANY play, which would it be? The answer to that one is simple: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Derek was in it once before, playing the character Snoopy and thought it was a lot of fun.  

DerekTravis Collard as Frog.
     In A Year with Frog and Toad, Derek was allowed to pick any part he wanted. He chose Frog because he thought Frog was levelheaded and a good friend. He also wanted a part that was a little less physical; last production he was the Dad in Knuffle Bunny, and that had a lot of running around, pulling on a stubborn little girl, and loud songs.

     Everyone in A Year with Frog and Toad rehearsed five days every week for five weeks! That is a lot of practicing, but once the plays start, there isn’t any more rehearsing because they’re so busy putting on the productions!

      When Derek was a child, he loved to read, always having a book under his arm everywhere he went, so of course by the time he was seven he had read the sweet Frog and Toad books.

     This musical was one of my favorites of the BACT productions, and I once again thank everyone who put time into this awesome play, A Year with Frog and Toad. A special thanks to Derek Collard!

Monday, September 30, 2013

BACT Spotlight On - Actor

With BACT's brand-new show The Gold Rush Musical! getting ready to embark on its Bay Area school tour, we decided it would be exciting to get to know one of the cast members: Khalia Davis. Khalia is also a teaching artist with our Youth Education Program, teaching theatre and drama at three different school locations.


BACT: You have worked with BACT in many different capacities. Can you outline those roles for us?

Khalia: My first introduction to BACT was last summer when I performed in their show Click, Clack, Moo as Cow #2 at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. At that same time I was also their musical director for their summer theater camps. We did Annie, the musical. I had such a wonderful time that when I was asked to come back for this past summer, I couldn't say no! I played Sally in The Cat in the Hat at Children's Fairyland and at Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley. I also worked at the same summer camps but this time wearing a different hat: choreographer. I was way more in my element and comfort zone in that role, as I have more experience directing and choreographing for kids. Currently, I am gearing up for the fall school tour of The Gold Rush Musical! as well as workshopping the new children's musical, Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy (based on the hit book series). While being a performer, I am also the director for two different after school theater programs: Wildwood Elementary School in Piedmont and Alamo Elementary. I am also assistant directing and doing the choreography for Disney's 101 Dalmatians, Kids at Beach Elementary School in Piedmont!

BACT: Phew! That is a lot! Do you consider yourself an actor first? An educator first? Or a combination of the two?

Khalia: That is a great question! I have always been passionate about acting and performing. It wasn't until about 4 years ago that I realized my true passion is in children's theater and entertainment. I have been teaching drama and dance to kids since I was a kid. It is a blessing that while trying to make a full-time career as a performing artist in family entertainment (theater, television, web, and film all included), my other jobs are revolved around teaching kids theater!

BACT: How does your acting inform your work as an educator?

Khalia: I think teaching kids is what has fueled my ability to perform for kids because I get to witness first-hand all their antics and adorable shenanigans in class. As an actor, you take on many roles that help tell a story. As a teacher, you take on many roles to help these children grow and learn. Sometimes I have to be stern and authoritative so my children can understand the importance of the lesson and the respect they should show me and each other as ensemble members. Then, there are times when I am the nurturer that lends a sympathetic ear to a child who is reticent to audition or perform due to shyness or nerves. Other times I am the goof ball who shows my class how easy and fun it is to just let loose and be silly and over the top. Acting is such a wonderfully freeing art form and getting to showcase that for the kids is awesome!

BACT: What do you most enjoy about being an educator? An actor?

Khalia: As an educator, I love seeing the process my children go through in creating a show. The final product is always a wonderful way to showcase how much hard work, energy, and heart these little ones put into it. I enjoy facilitating the use of their imaginations or finding ways to get kids to come out of their shells. Some of my favorite times being an educator are when I get students who have behavior problems but by show-time, the same kids find a way to be helpful whether by knowing their cues and lines or gathering props or sets.

As an actor, I love telling stories. I have the opportunity to affect an audience. I have always loved performing for people even when I was little. I started as a professional child actress and model, and I couldn't get enough of being on stage or in front of a screen. When you are acting, you are not yourself anymore. There is something very magical about that transformation. There is also something magical when an audience allows themselves to be transported to that time and space you have invented for them to enjoy. Being an artist means I never have to lose my imagination and love of creation. Being a children's entertainer means I never have to grow up.
The Gold Rush cast: Khalia Davis, Alex Lydon & Steven Shear 

BACT: You are in the midst of rehearsals for The Gold Rush Musical, which will tour schools in October. What are the differences, if any, in preparing for a touring show versus one of our mainstage shows (i.e. Cat in the Hat, Click Clack Moo)?

Khalia: The major difference I have found are the added responsibilities that we have when prepping for a touring show. We are not just the talent but also the stage hands and facilitators for discussions after the show. We have to be in charge of setting our own costumes, props, and set pieces. After a mainstage show, we may go out to the audience for a meet and greet but with this tour, we will be holding talk backs that provide kids an opportunity to ask us direct questions about our show, characters, and educational content. Mainstage shows operate in the same theaters all season long, but with a school tour, we travel all over the Bay Area and perform in all sorts of spaces. Some of the schools will have an actual auditorium with a stage. Some schools will use their multipurpose room with no stage space. We have to be ready to make those adjustments on the fly. The time it is taking us to mount this production is also significantly faster than for a mainstage show. We were required to be off-book before we even started rehearsals so that we could start immediately with working on our feet.

BACT: What are you looking forward to the most performing with BACT this year?

Khalia: Being a young woman of color, I was always looking for the black actress in anything I saw as a child. I wanted to see a representation of myself up on stage because then I could believe it was possible for me to do it too. I am so honored that I get an opportunity to travel to all different types of diverse schools this fall hopefully inspiring other young girls of color who have the same dream I did or at least giving them a reason to relate to the material being performed. It is very special for me.

BACT: What words of encouragement, insight or wisdom do you have for the younger generation who someday hope to do what you are doing?

Khalia: Training hard, being professional, and having a positive attitude are what will get you ahead in this business. If you believe in yourself and what you have been called to do, then do it. Give it everything you've got, and support and encouragement will follow. Bring positive energy into any work environment because people will notice you and your light will shine the brightest.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Partners in Fun

Bay Area Children’s Theatre and MTC join for new Theater Series for Young Audiences
A Guest Blog by Daunielle Rasmussen, Marin Theatre Company's Director of Education

I love theater for young audiences. It is a joy to see how young ones light up when they experience the magic of live theater. They are so engaged and present, connecting deeply to the story being told in front of them. One of the values that Marin Theatre Company holds that drew me to this organization is their belief that every child should grow up experiencing great theater. We want to produce great work that inspires audiences of all ages.

Ivy + Bean was the first show BACT brought to MTC!
When I first came on board at MTC, Jasson and I decided that it is a top priority to create extensive programming for families. Knowing that it will take several seasons to build the infrastructure needed to support producing a full season of plays for youth, I started to think about potential partnerships that would allow us to serve our young audiences more fully today. Up until this year, we produced one to two School Tour productions each year that toured throughout Marin County and the Bay Area. A few years ago, we also started presenting the School Tour onsite at MTC to engage neighborhood families in the experience.

Due to logistical challenges, I realized last December that we weren’t going to be able to mount the MTC run of our The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe School Tour in March and April 2013, but I didn’t want to lose our one slot in the year where we had been presenting work for children and families. That’s when the light bulb lit up in my mind and I thought that this might be an opportunity to pilot a partnership experiment to see how Marin County families would receive it.

When selecting a partner, it is important to find someone who shares similar values and whose work you respect. For me, I knew right away that I wanted to work with Bay Area Children’s Theatre. I first encountered BACT when I attended their production of Junie B. Jones and A Little Monkey Business in 2006. I was dazzled by the show; it was a magical experience made by people who have what it takes to make meaningful work for children that doesn’t pander or wallow in didactic language. Their work is smart, funny and innovative, engaging families with each other in creative experiences. Those are the values we hold in our own work.

The Cat in the Hat kicks off the partnership with MTC!
I reached out to Nina and she thought to bring Ivy + Bean, the Musical to MTC. I loved the idea, and the benefits of working together were very apparent for both organizations. With every show sold out, the MTC run of Ivy + Bean went even better than we had anticipated, so continuing the partnership seemed to be a no-brainer.

We are excited about this partnership as it creates the opportunity for us at MTC to provide a full
season of quality theater for young audiences in Marin County with a partner who, over the last ten years, has created a home for Bay Area children to engage creatively with their families and their imaginations.

We look forward to seeing you and the young people in your life this season!

Monday, June 17, 2013

BACT Spotlight On - Actor

In less than two weeks, we will be kicking off our 10th Anniversary season at BACT with the opening of The Cat in the Hat! This re-telling of the Dr. Seuss classic will be playing at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. We recently interviewed Doyle Ott, the talented actor who will be starring as The Cat in the Hat.  In addition to his work as a performer, Doyle runs the youth theatre at Children's Fairyland, teaches at Sonoma State, and also works as a freelance director and dramaturg.


"An incredible adventure comes through the front door..."
BACT: Did you read Dr. Seuss when you were a young reader? If so, what impact has Dr. Seuss had on you?

Doyle: I remember lying on the rug in a library and reading through every Dr. Seuss book I could get my hands on. I think, for me, his books were a little subversive, and some of them were among the first I "discovered" for myself.

BACT: Describe your experience getting into the character of The Cat in the Hat. What has your process been like? What has been most challenging about it? Any surprises as you were exploring the character?

Doyle: It's been fun playing with finding little bits of cat behavior, and figuring out how they live in The Cat's body. Right now, I'm asking myself a lot of questions about how The Cat instigates things. How much is deliberately mischievous, and how much is accident? Does he know what's going to happen when he lets the Things out of the box? A fun, simple obvious surprise came in thinking about what The Cat wants and why he's there. Part of it is just a cat wanting in out of the rain.  Right now, I think the biggest challenge is distilling all the great stuff we've come up with as a cast and making it clear.

BACT: Why do you think The Cat in the Hat is such a popular story?

Doyle: The book really is just full of stuff for children and for parents. A lot of the classic elements of myths and fairytale journeys are there -- the parents are gone, and an incredible adventure comes through the front door. At first, it's fun, then it gets out of control, and the children have to figure out how to control it. I love that the book ends with a question that's basically about ethics. Would you tell your parents if something totally unbelievable happened while they were gone? As a parent and a teacher, it reminds me of the amazing things that children go through on a day-to-day basis, the daydreams and make-believe games that are so engrossing. It's easy to forget the value of the adventure that led to the mess. And I can't think of anyone who doesn't want The Cat's mess-cleaning machine.

BACT: How does this production compare with the book, or other appearances of The Cat? Has the production stayed true to the book?

Doyle: The adaptation that we're working with is the truest to the book that I've read. The words are all there. For me, the old Chuck Jones animated version (which Dr. Seuss was involved with from beginning to end) will always be the standard to meet as far as adaptations go. Because people tend to read the book over and over, the images are icons. So the challenge is to make as many of those images come to life as possible, while keeping the same spirit of play the book evokes.

BACT: What do you hope audience members take away from this production of The Cat in the Hat?

Doyle Ott, the man behind The Cat
Doyle: I'm using it as a reminder to embrace all the wonderful opportunities and adventures that walk in the front door every day. If this encourages anyone to let the world in a little more, that would be a victory. In terms of bringing the book to the stage, I'd love it if they leave feeling like nothing's been left out, or maybe feeling like they've seen one of those "find the differences in the pictures" puzzles.

BACT: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Any final thoughts on The Cat in the Hat?

Doyle: I'm just grateful for the chance to be working with such a talented, committed cast and production team!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

BACT Blogger Genevieve Interviews Stage Manager Christina Larson

Genevieve returns with a fun interview with Christina Larson, Bay Area Children Theatre's resident stage manager! This time, the young blogger learns what it takes to stage manage a show like Knuffle Bunny, which is currently running at the Front Row Theater in San Ramon. Genevieve is ten years old and in fourth grade at Kensington Hilltop Elementary. She attended her first live theater performance at three years old. Genevieve also enjoys acting, particularly in musicals, playing the piano, writing, reading, traveling, and playing sports with her friends. She lives in Kensington with her parents and two younger siblings.
If you are age 9 and up and want to write a blog about your experience with BACT, email


My Interview of Christina Larson
By Genevieve, Age 10
              Recently I went to the newest Bay Area Children Theatre production…Knuffle Bunny! First of all, I was very surprised that Knuffle Bunny was pronounced Kuh-Nuffle. My family and I have always thought that it was pronounced Nuffle!

              The play was funny and exciting. I loved the silly dad, toddler Trixie, the un-trusting mom, and the fun ensemble. Trixie did an awesome job acting like a baby, and the dad did a great impression being frustrated and determined. I loved it when he went in the washing machine and fought all the types of clothing. Trixie’s babble was hilarious, and her little song was heartbreaking. The mom was funny and superior. The actors were all wonderful!

One thing that I noticed right away was the awesome scenery, with the painted black-and-white book-like background, the opening washing machines, and of course the lighting that helped the mood. Everyone did really silly dances and moved around the stage in a fun way. None of this would have happened if it weren’t for Christina Larson, the stage manager and the most recent person I interviewed.

Christina is from the Bay Area. Some of her family members live there, too. She goes to every practice to help people know where to move around on stage. She is in charge of lighting, helping the actors and crew get along, and…well, everything. Christina is a very big part of putting on a production. She works with everyone. The designers, the directors, the actors, and anyone else involved in the play. Christina also works as a receptionist at another theatre, but she really enjoys stage managing.

There are several challenges of being a stage manager. As I mentioned before, she has to manage the people and make sure all technical things like lighting and sound effects are running smoothly. She has to make sure that the set designer is doing what the director pictured. Those are some hard challenges to face.

But what else does she do? Christina is the person backstage behind the counter with all the buttons and screens. She’s the one who presses the ‘go’ button for the next exciting thing. She helps with sound effects. A stage manager is a HUGE part of putting the production together. That much is obvious.

The gigantic Knuffle Bunny dances with Trixie!
Something that I always wonder is…where do they get those awesome props? Well, that was interesting to ask. Christina tells me that they hire a prop designer and work together with her to make sure everything is perfect. A prop that I was curious about is the gigantic Knuffle Bunny. Instead of having it be a costume, they made the huge stuffed animal be a bit like a puppet, with a person behind it, holding it. I asked Christina why they would do that, and she said the director wanted it like that. It would be quicker, because if it had been a costume, the person inside it would have very little time to change. It was easier to make, also.

I thank everyone who was a part of making the play possible, from the actors to the crew. Especially Christina, who spent time with me to do this interview, which turned out to be so cool and interesting. The play was so awesome. I loved it, and, once again, THANK YOU!!!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

10 Years - Imagine That!

Bay Area Children’s Theatre is about to embark on our 10th Anniversary season. I couldn’t be more thrilled and excited about the shows we have lined up!

The Cat arrives at Fairyland in June!
We open the season with a new and innovative interpretation of Dr. Seuss’ classic, The Cat in the Hat. This production uses the words from the book as the dialogue in the show, while adding hysterical audience interactions accompanied by live sound effects and musical instruments. The incredibly talented cast will bring to life the mischievious Things, Sally, the Boy, the Fish, and, of course, the Cat. I can’t wait to see the delight on the faces of our youngest audience members as the world of Cat is revealed on stage at Fairyland.

Coming to a school near you!
This fall, we will tour local schools with The Gold Rush Musical!. BACT is commissioning this show to directly address the California Content Standards for social studies. This fast-paced, comedic, musical adventure through the history of California will be designed to educate and entertain elementary school students throughout the Bay Area.

The beloved classic returns!

Just in time for Thanksgiving, we will be revisiting one of our all-time favorites, A Year with Frog and Toad. I adore this heart-warming story about friendship, and the music is captivating for all ages.

Meet the porcine wonder!
In January, I cannot wait to bring to life one my son’s absolute favorite book series, Mercy Watson. If you are not yet familiar with this “porcine wonder” do yourself (and your family) a favor and pick up a copy of the Mercy Watson books, by Kate DiCamillo. You will giggle the night away as you read about Mercy and her escapades.

A magical journey in ancient China!

Following Mercy Watson, BACT is proud to bring to the stage another new musical by Min Kahng (book, music and lyrics for Tales of Olympus). This time, Min will be creating an original musical adaptation of the Newbery Honor book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. I picked up this book and read it one night after I heard from a librarian friend that she couldn’t keep it on the shelves at their school library. And I am excited to see it realized on-stage next year!

Let your imagination fly!
Finally, we close our season with another world premiere! Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy, the Musical will be written and composed by local musician, Julia Norton. The show is a celebration of the power of imagination—a theme I hold near and dear to my heart.

We hope that you and your family are as psyched about the season as my family is. My son keeps asking me, “When is the Cat coming to town?” Well, the Cat arrives in June. Looking forward to seeing you at the theatre as we embark on the next 10 years!

- Nina

Monday, March 4, 2013

BACT Blogger Genevieve Interviews Benjamin Hanna

Here she is again! Genevieve is back, this time with an interview with Ivy + Bean, The Musical director Benjamin Hanna. Genevieve is ten years old and in fourth grade at Kensington Hilltop Elementary. She attended her first live theater performance at three years old. Genevieve also enjoys acting, particularly in musicals, playing the piano, writing, reading, traveling, and playing sports with her friends. She lives in Kensington with her parents and two younger siblings.
If you are age 9 and up and want to write a blog about your experience with BACT, email


My Interview of Benjamin Hanna
By Genevieve, Age 10

I have always enjoyed the Ivy and Bean books and wished that I could watch it live, as a movie or play. Well, my wish recently came true, because the current Bay Area Children’s Theatre (BACT) production is Ivy and Bean…The Musical! This play was one-of-a-kind and silly.

BACT worked with the Ivy and Bean series author, Annie Barrows, to develop a musical that stayed close to the original books and its characters. They added in some theatrical pieces, like throwing confetti, which I enjoyed. When people had two parts and they had to go change into their other outfits, they did it in highly incredible ways. You wouldn’t even notice that they had left; there was so much creativity in it. It had practically the exact same art in the scenery as was in the books, which showed they put time and thought into ways to remind the audience of the book series. The actors were just like all the kids I know--getting in trouble, dressing up, annoying siblings…all just on one Saturday morning. It was super realistic, and if you go to see it, you’ll agree with me—it was a wonderful play.

This time I interviewed Benjamin Hanna, the director of the play. He was interesting and talkative and fun to interview. Ben also acts. When he was a child, he thought he wanted to be an actor, which he did enjoy doing, but in college he also took directing and decided that that was his real heart’s desire. He still finds time for acting as well. He worked with BACT for nine months to make this play wonderful.

What exactly does a director do? I’ve always wondered this, and that’s one of the reasons I was excited to interview Ben. Ben believes that the director’s main job is to tell the story in an accurate and fun way. A director brings together a group of artists, such as the actors and the technicians, and discusses their thoughts about the production. Led by the director, the group works together to create the places actors go, the things people wear, the sounds you hear, the dances actors do, and the things people use onstage in a super realistic way. The director helps actors put meaning into their words to make everything real to you. “I love directing because I get to work with the most interesting and creative people and I learn something new every day!” Ben smiles, “Directors do a lot of things!”

While directing the production, Ben thinks back to when he was young to make the show as kid-friendly as possible. He also has a seven-year-old cousin whom he read the books to. Ben has younger siblings, as well. He thinks he is most like Nancy, because he was the oldest and would always baby-sit his sisters and brothers. But he acted more like Ivy on a Saturday morning, sitting on the front porch reading.  He got some of his ideas for directing the play from fun, exciting experiences in his own childhood and he tried to make the musical as fun as it could be. He wanted the play to be realistic to children so they could really relate to their own neighborhood experiences.  I definitely think he achieved his goal!

Ivy + Bean, the Musical director Benjamin Hanna.
Ben is new to the Bay Area. He came here from Minnesota, so he has never directed for BACT before. Two of the very many plays that he has directed include The Hobbit and Go, Dog, Go.  Now that Ben has directed one play for BACT, he totally thinks he would do another. “If they asked me if I would do another play for them,” Ben mused, “I would say ‘Great! So, what’ll it be about?’ and settle down to prepare on the spot.” 

As I was finishing our interview, I had the opportunity to meet the actress who played Ivy, Megan Putnam. She started acting when she was eight years old and this was her first BACT production. Megan says she didn’t know any of the other people making the play when she started, but by the end they were all like family. She read all of the Ivy and Bean books and definitely agrees that Ivy was the part for her. “I don’t know what I would be if I didn’t get the part of Ivy! She’s perfect for me,” Megan says. She told me that her dream play to be part of is Wicked; she would love to play Glenda.

I am really impressed by this great play, and I would love to thank everyone who put time and thought into it. It turned out wonderful. Go, Ivy and Bean!!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dramaturgy 101 - A Guest Blog by Dramaturg Oona Hatton

 You may have seen the word before and wondered at its meaning. Or you may be encountering the word for the first time here in this blog. Dramaturgy (or being a dramaturg) is often a mystery word to audience members. But as Ms. Oona Hatton will describe below, dramturgy is an essential part of the theatre-making process.


Hi there! It’s your friendly neighborhood dramaturg, here to unlock the secrets of new play development! If you have been to one or more shows at BACT, you might know that in addition to producing great plays for kids, we’re also interested in creating brand new, never-before-seen great plays for kids. This season includes not one but TWO new works, Tales of Olympus (by Min Kahng) and our current show, Ivy + Bean, the Musical (by Scott Elmegreen).

A dramaturg’s job is always different depending on the needs of the show, but I like to say that our main responsibility is to make sure that a play’s story is being told as clearly as possible. For a new play, a dramaturg learns from the playwright what story they want to tell, and collaborates with them (and often with the director) to decide how best to tell that story. Last summer, BACT ran two week-long workshops during which the playwrights, directors, and producers of Tales of Olympus and Ivy + Bean had a chance to see early drafts of these plays on their feet. Over the course of a few intense rehearsals, the actors learned all of the music and some simple blocking and presented staged readings of the scripts before an invited audience. With feedback from the director, producer, myself, and our dedicated audiences, the playwrights were sent off to do rewrites. In the case of Ivy + Bean, we were also lucky to have Annie Barrows, the author of the Ivy + Bean series, come to a few rehearsals to share her insights about whether the play was remaining true to the spirit of the characters.

Ivy + Bean, The Musical makes it to the stage with the help of a dramaturg!

One of the biggest challenges of creating a show based on a book—or in the case of Ivy + Bean, a whole series—is that the play cannot be an exact replica of the original. A playwright who adapts a book is a translator who works to communicate the spirit of the story, but in a way that is appropriate for a live audience. While a play has to give up some parts of the original, it also brings new elements to the story. In this case, these include the catchy, hilarious, and touching songs Scott has written.

As a dramaturg, I try to find a balance between being faithful to the original stories and understanding that the play is its own work of art. If it is hard to choose between a book and a play, it is even more difficult to decide where one’s loyalties lie when it comes to live people! A playwright, a director, and a producer can have conflicting ideas about the script: a playwright might think about the life of her/his play after the first production, while the director is focused on the show they are putting up. Likewise, a producer must be concerned with making sound business decisions that ensure that the show is ready to go on time and within budget. I often have to ask myself: to whom am I most responsible? Personally, I think of myself as an advocate for the play and the playwright, but with the understanding that theatre is by necessity a collaborative art in which a number of people come together to build something. Like any art form, theatre is subjective, so I recognize that my opinion is only one of many. And ultimately, it is the audience’s opinion that matters most! So I hope you enjoy the show, and if you have feedback about our adaptation of Ivy and Bean, we would love to hear from you!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Parent's Perspective - A Guest Blog by Cynthia House Nooney

On a rainy Saturday afternoon last month, I escorted my twin nine-year-old boys and one of their friends to Berkeley Rep’s new Osher Theater, where we’d purchased tickets to see Tales of Olympus. Even though December is the busiest month of all and I had a ton of other things to accomplish, I was thrilled to be taking them to this debut musical – not that I let on to that, though; I knew my best bet was to act blasé about it. I’ve learned not to project my hopes and interests onto my children. That will get me absolutely nowhere. My plan was to covertly observe their expressions during the show – just in case, you know – they weren’t willing to say much afterward. They are nine after all – big fourth-graders who aren’t as eager to reveal their innermost thoughts and preferences like they once were. 
             Have I mentioned that my boys are highly energetic and active? They’re not exactly inclined to sit quietly for short periods, let alone what they might perceive to be lengthy, so once we were seated (very nicely by a staff member, I might add, who didn’t appear peeved in the least that we were five minutes late), I exhaled and crossed my fingers until intermission, when not one of my charges asked to leave. I smiled inside and gave myself a mental high five. In the corridor, where the boys munched on cookies, I pretended not to overhear their conversations. “Who do you like best in the play?” one of them asked. “Hermes is my favorite,” answered one. “Jason is mine,” said another. “But I like Zeus too.”
The three of them huddled in a corner together, one rapping the way Hermes had done earlier on stage, the other two singing Don’t Swallow The Babies, a rollicking fun song that Zeus had just performed.
Did the playwright have my boys in mind when he wrote Tales of Olympus? All three of my small attendees were captivated from the beginning, following the action with huge, engaged eyes. They laughed and cheered right along with Jason (a “bard” in training), and related to his reluctance, never catching on to the fact that they were learning about Greek mythology at the same time.
The Olympus cast tells the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece.
“I wish I could fly!” one of my twins exclaimed after the play ended. “I wish I could go to Mount Olympus!” said his brother. Their friend, typically more reserved than my boys, declared his desire to go back in time, like Jason had. Collectively, they discussed their delight with the way Jason told the Golden Fleece story. “But the Icarus story was so cool, too! And Zeus’s!”
When cast members greeted them immediately after the show and autographed complimentary posters, the boys held back smiles and did their best to act nonchalant – but once inside our car, they compared signatures and commented on Aphrodite’s beauty and Athena’s funny sarcasm.
Although I tried not to ask questions on the way home, I couldn’t resist at least one: “What was your favorite part?” My oldest twin answered quickly. “That’s hard to say, Mom, it was all so good! Very adventurous and exciting. I’m going to tell everyone in my class to go!”
It wasn’t until the next day that I discovered the actor who played Hermes is also the writer of the musical. When I shared this fact with my sons, their eyes became as huge as they were during the show. “Are you serious? How did he do that?!”
I wasn’t sure how to answer adequately enough (although plenty of thoughts came to mind: Min Kahng clearly has a great imagination, he’s supremely talented, and hardworking), but instead, we all just shook our heads in deep admiration and decided where to hang up their posters.
Cynthia House Nooney has recently joined the board of Bay Area Children's Theatre.