Posts Tagged ‘education’

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Four Days, 44 Shows (Really.)

February 2, 2011

By Lian Farrer, Vice President for Education

The week before last I was in Tampa Bay, FL, at the annual IPAY (International Performing Arts for Youth) Showcase and conference. And yes, I really did see 44 shows in just 4 days. And went to workshops, meetings, lectures, and a party or two. Despite the grueling schedule, I came home reenergized and excited about the things I saw, heard, and did.

I’ll begin with the sheep. Or, I should say, Les moutons. That’s the name of this bizarre but inspired interactive performance piece presented by a dance company from Toronto called Corpus. They set up a sheep pen (complete with sheep dung that I hope wasn’t real) on the plaza alongside the river walk. Through the crowd came a shepherd driving his flock: dancers dressed in sheep’s costumes. The dancer/actors who played the sheep should all win awards for never once breaking character during the show. They did the usual sheep-y things, including getting shorn and milked. I tasted the milk, warm from the udder. (Don’t ask.) Kids in the audience had a chance to come up to the pen and feed the critters. This show was totally goofy and unexpected. I’d like to figure out a way to work Les moutons into our State Theatre season. Can you hear me out there, Cook College?

Another show featuring herd animals was equally strange and wonderful: The Wolf and the Goat, by Italy’s Compagnia Rodisio. A wolf and a goat, natural enemies, take shelter one stormy night and, not recognizing each other in the dark, become friends. When daylight comes, will the wolf eat the goat? Will the goat manage to escape? Or will they break the accepted order of things and remain friends? (The audience never finds out.) The show is basically two actors—not in animal costumes, thank goodness—a red velvet settee, and three small lighted trees. Dressed in a simple white frock, Manuela Capece, playing the goat was all wide-eyed innocence, while Davide Doro, as the wolf, managed to be both sleazy and seductively sexy at the same time. The Wolf and the Goat was originally in Italian; my colleagues and I were further impressed when we learned that Davide Doro spoke no English, and had learned his part phonetically. Bravo, Davide!

Without a doubt, my very favorite showcase was Grug. Now, I will confess to you here that I normally don’t get too excited about shows for really little kids. But I lost my heart to a character who “began his life as the top of a burrawong tree” and who looks like this:

Grug was created by Australia’s Windmill Theatre and is based on a children’s book series that I confess I’d never heard of. The production was everything theater should be: imaginative, expertly performed, and completely captivating. I loved the clever design of the sets and puppets. Most of all, I was struck by how the actors seemed genuinely delighted to be performing for their young audience; there was no condescension and none of that exaggerated cheerfulness that makes me cringe at so many other shows targeted to kids this age. As we like to remind each other in my profession, children are just like our adult audience, only smaller.
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State Theatre presents school performances of Harold and the Purple Crayon and more for 2009-2010

June 9, 2009

Now that the 2008-2009 education season has wrapped up, we are well on our way to putting out information about next season’s shows. We’ve got some orders in already and school’s not even out! The 2009-2010 education season is looking to be a great one, seeing some familiar titles like The Grapes of Wrath, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Nutcracker, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We’ve also got some shows that you may not have heard of, including MacHomer, a one-man version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth told in the voices of characters from The Simpsons. Also, The Man Who Planted Trees a show based on a children’s book about a man who makes it his life’s work to plant trees all over the south of France. Although it’s still very early and we have just put these shows and several others on sale, we already seem to have some favorites including The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other Eric Carle Favorites for the preK-3rd grade crowd. This is a return event for us and already we have some big orders for the 3 performances. For older students, it looks like the returning of performance poets and New Jersey’s own the Mayhem Poets will be a favorite. They will be here to help us celebrate National Poetry Month in April. You can find more information about the entire education season at http://www.statetheatrenj.org/education/performancesschools.asp.

–Jenn Cunha, Education

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW(7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/. Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.

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Never a Dull Moment…

January 23, 2009

On the morning of January 20, while Barack Obama was getting ready to be sworn into office, Bob the Builder LIVE! was getting ready to perform at the State Theatre for students and teachers from all over New Jersey. But before the buses arrived, we had some excitement on Livingston Avenue, as right in front of the theater two car accidents blocked the street (Yes, two!). Luckily, there were police officers there to help with the accidents and to help safely guide the buses. It was a little chaotic and it took a while for the accidents to clear out and for us to get the buses where they needed to be, but we did it.

Adding to the confusion was the fact that it had snowed the day before, the streets were a little icy, and as a result, some of the school groups we were expecting were delayed BEFORE they arrived to the mess of Livingston Avenue. So, the show started 15 minutes late, not bad, all things considered.

The show started and you could hear the kids’ excitement from the lobby. During intermission, some little kids were lined up with chaperones to use the bathroom and others were sitting in the lobby having a mid-morning snack. Hearing the students talking about how great the show was is one of my favorite parts of education matinees, especially when the students are very little. They went back into the theater and responded when Bob asked them questions (“Can we fix it?” “Yes we can!”). As the show came to a close, the kids waited to be led out to their buses, getting zipped up, and putting a hand on the rope that a lot of teachers bring to help herd their students. Jumping up and down as they left, it was pretty clear that they had fun watching Bob, and I had fun watching them, and that all of this was well worth it.
—Jennifer Cunha, Education

For more information on the State Theatre’s performances for schools, visit: http://www.statetheatrenj.org/education/performancesschools.asp

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW(7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/.

Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.

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VP for Education, ISO Great School and Family Performances for State Theatre Audiences

January 15, 2009

I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting work to present for our school and community audiences, and theater conferences are a great way to see a lot of performances in a short time. This past week my staff and I went into NYC to check out a few of the hundreds of performances being showcased during the mother-of-all-booking-conferences, APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) 

Attending theater showcases is a lot like the dating scene: you have to sort through a lot of mediocre, annoying, incomprehensible, inappropriate, and just plain stupid options before you find one that’s right for you. This year’s APAP conference was no exception. We were pleasantly intrigued by a couple of shows that were part of the Under the Radar Festival at the Public Theater. Both incorporated performance poetry to illuminate powerful personal stories about class, race, identity, and culture. The quality of both productions was great—original, well-written, and movingly performed. Due to some of the language and subject matter, we’re not sure whether these pieces would be considered appropriate for school audiences. We’ll need to look into whether the artists would be willing to do some editing. 

As anticipated, we found ourselves sitting through some showcases that weren’t quite so successful. A couple of these showed promise, but will need a lot more polish before they’re ready for the State Theatre. We’ll be keeping an eye on them as they go through their development. Then there was another show that we all agreed was perhaps the longest hour we’ve ever spent inside a theater. (No, I’m not going to tell you what it was.)  

I will be flying off to Cleveland next week to attend my favorite conference: IPAY (International Performing Arts for Youth), which specializes in programs for school and family audiences. As the name implies, the conference showcases performers from all over the world. Since the productions are required to go through a screening process in order to be selected for a showcase performance, the quality tends to be pretty high. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

 —Lian Farrer, Vice President for Education

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW(7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/.
Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.