Children's Theatre Repertory showcases Folktales from the American Westby Jan Janes on Nov 4, 2016
Each semester, seasoned performers and novices join together to produce a theatrical performance just for youth when they enroll in the Children's Theatre Repertory class. This fall, elementary school audiences will visit Gavilan College to view Folktales from the American West, six short plays based on folk songs and Native American tales highlighting strong female characters.
Rehearsals on a partially constructed set, with evolving blocking and exchanges, offered the students endless opportunity to explore as their characters interacted.
The folktales include Oh, Susannah!, Sweet Betsey from Pike, Ms. Grasshopper, the Toad and the Rooster, Sister Fox and Brother Coyote, Hiiaka and Pohaha. The performance concludes with the song, This Land Is Your Land.
Dr. John Lawton-Haehl watches from the wings as students practice
new dance steps in preparation for their fall production.
Busloads of elementary student audiences will arrive for each performance bringing their own imaginations as well, and the Gavilan students anticipated their interest. Several cast members shared their insights about the production and process.
Jimmie Lopez, who plays Brother Coyote, enjoys the character's attraction to trouble, always ending up in mischief. "Theatre is a great way to get out of your comfort zone," he said. Lopez originally used theatre to overcome his own stage fright, taking background player roles, then pushing himself for bigger roles.
Theatre is a family affair for Jessica Damron, and she's been acting since childhood. Cast as Ms. Grasshopper, she looks forward to the goofy things the youthful audiences will see. She also enjoys directing, writing, blocking, set design and the collaboration. "There's so much besides what's onstage that pulls a performance together."
Lynne Oneal is new to theatre and enrolled in the class after discovering her ed plan didn't fit what she wanted to do. In this performance her favorite role is Miss Donkey, and she demonstrated a realistic bray. "I love to make people laugh!"
Dr. John and Chris Webber offer director's notes following a
rehearsal of the play Pohaha.
For Julie O'Neill, theatre had to wait until retirement. During the performance she is narrator, weaving the stories together and holding the attention of the young audiences. She sees theatre as a place of permission and encouragement. "If you ever have a fantasy, a dream to act in any way," she said, "this is a safe environment."
Playing the Bear Hunter in Oh Susannah!, Jesse Louie Aguilar says he gets to go all out, have fun, go nuts with a role. "Theatre is therapy, you can cut loose on stage. Even if it isn't your career path, you can easily apply it to other things."
Elias Villa, taking the Children's Theatre class for the second time, thinks it's uplifting to be performing for children. "Kids use their imaginations more, and they can enjoy and envision a lot of elements, adding stuff."
Chris Webber works with the cast of Pohaha to block their
entrance and exit in a scene.
Look for Chris Webber in the next Spiderman movie! For this production, he has roles as both a cast member and as writer/director for Pohaha, a new challenge for him. "Kids' attentions are easier to hold, and the vision I had in mind is now being played out on stage, a good feeling."
In addition to the performances for elementary school audiences, Folktales from the American West will present one performance for the public on Saturday, November 19 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the Gavilan College Bookstore and BookSmart in Morgan Hill. The Gavilan College Theatre is located at 5055 Santa Teresa Boulevard in Gilroy.