The Californian

Opening the door to children’s theater

Staff writer Jenna Baner expresses her experiences participating in children's theater.

Senior+River+Moore+and+sophomore+Zoe+Whitaker+in+their+roles+as+The+Wolf+and+Little+Red+Riding+Hood.
Senior River Moore and sophomore Zoe Whitaker in their roles as The Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood.

Senior River Moore and sophomore Zoe Whitaker in their roles as The Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood.

Photo courtesy of Laura Woods

Photo courtesy of Laura Woods

Senior River Moore and sophomore Zoe Whitaker in their roles as The Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood.

Jenna Baner, Staff Writer

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The audience of children’s theater is a tougher crowd than one might think. Well, that is if the children are in fourth grade. Kindergarteners will laugh at mostly anything.

The Cal High drama department puts on at least one children’s play every year. As a member of Theater 2 last year and Theater 3 this year, I’ve had the pleasure of participating in two of them, including the most recent one earlier this month.

Last year, my Theater 2 class performed “The Fabulous Fable Factory” by Joseph Robinette for visiting Montevideo Elementary fourth graders. The plot follows a young girl who stumbles upon an old factory containing a machine that produces fables. Despite the well-timed jokes, color-coordinated costumes and playful antics of our cast, the reaction was not as significant as I had been expecting. I don’t remember very many of the students laughing. I do remember, however, a strong anticlimactic feeling once we had finished.

But afterwards, we engaged in a Q&A with the kids about theater and acting, and they became much more alive. My classmates and I enjoyed answering their questions and the fourth graders seemed to enjoy asking them.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, my Theater 3 class performed “Frumpled Fairy Tales” by William J. Springer for visiting Montevideo kindergartners. The plot is similar to its predecessor in that it revolves around various fairy tale stories. With the previous year’s performance in mind, I did not have high hopes for audience reactions, though I did take into consideration that they were younger.

The kids proceeded to exceed my expectations and then some. All of us backstage felt giddy as my cast members and I could hear the adorable giggles and shouts coming from beyond the curtain. When it was my turn to be on stage, narrating the story of Rapunzel, I repeatedly struggled to pause for considerable amounts of time so that their long laughter wouldn’t drown out my lines.

I loved it.

I’ve found that after rehearsing over and over again, jokes become stale to cast members, and plays become less and less fun to run through. An audience as lively as this one is refreshing, and their energy boosts the energy of the entire show.

With all that being said, I wouldn’t call the fourth graders boring or annoying. They’re just not as easily amused by the cheap humor that has kindergartners cracking up. Yet at the same time, some of the more clever wordplay and puns go right over their heads. They’re somewhere in between, and when our plays cater to one or the other, they’re left rather bored.   

Overall, children’s theater is a world of its own, and it’s always fun to visit once in a while. You’re not exactly advancing your acting skills or challenging yourself in many ways, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless, and it provides relief between periods of heavier pieces. I hope that playwrights continue to crank out such brilliant works as they always have, for a wide range of performers and audience members alike.

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Opening the door to children’s theater