Tots To Teens

Theater troupes share stories for youngsters

Posted: March 10, 2017 at 1 a.m.

Anna Hope and Joe Penn appear in Trike Theatre’s production of “Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

Anna Hope and Joe Penn appear in Trike Theatre’s production of “Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

There have been an abundance of studies over the past 10 years that demonstrate the benefits of exposing children and teens to theater, including higher grades, improved literacy skills, higher graduation rates, lowered disciplinary and attendance issues and greater community engagement. Northwest Arkansas parents might count themselves lucky, then, to be in an area that offers plentiful theater opportunities. This weekend, two of the area's most established youth-centered companies are offering stimulating options for tots to teens.

'Three Billy Goats Gruff'


‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’

WHEN — 9:30 and 11 a.m. March 14-18

WHERE — Arts Center for the Ozarks, 214 Main St. in Springdale

COST — $6

INFO — 464-5084


‘The Breakfast Club’

WHEN — 7 p.m. today & Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday & Sunday

WHERE — Arts Live Theatre, 818 N. Sang Ave. in Fayetteville

COST — Free, with a suggested donation for Arts Live programming

INFO — 521-4932

Made possible through a grant from the Arkansas Arts Council, "Three Billy Goats Gruff" will take place at Arts Center of the Ozarks at 9:30 and 11 a.m. March 14-18. The show is part of Trike Theatre's "Little Trike" series.

"'Three Billy Goats Gruff' is an intimate, interactive story experience [in which] two trolls invite the audience to help them tell the story," says Trike Theatre artistic director Kassie Misiewicz. "When the audience walks into the theater, they're going to step into the woods, along with the trolls. The woods are all around them.

"What I liked about this script is that there's so much humor in it. We get to use professional costume designs, actors, sets, lights -- this young audience gets to have a professional theater experience in an accessible location."

Misiewicz says the show is appropriate for ages "1 and up."

"We want people to feel like this is a very accessible theater experience," she says. "We want to eliminate barriers for families. This is a totally 'non-shushing' experience. In a movie theater, you don't take kids until they're able to sit quietly through that amount of time, but at our theater, I don't care if they're walking around or dancing -- they should be experiencing it in their own way!"

Misiewicz says children's theater is getting more and more exposure on a global scale.

"Theater for the very young is being produced internationally, more and more," she notes. "Theaters across the United States are seeing the need to offer creative, accessible experiences for our youngest audience members, partly because the parents are asking for it and partly because they realize the need to create and build and add to that younger audience base. The younger they start, the more exciting it will be."

'The Breakfast Club'

Down the road in Fayetteville, Arts Live Theatre's executive director Mark Landon Smith is directing a "heavily staged reading" of his own adaptation of "The Breakfast Club." The performance is free with a suggested donation to support Arts Live programming.

Smith says his motivation behind adapting an abridged, "PG version" of the 1985 teen movie classic was how relevant the themes remain, despite the 32 years that separate the film's debut from today.

"Every one, at some point, is going through that transition of realizing that, yes, we're all different, but at the same time, we're all alike in certain ways," he says. "The expectations that you have to fit these certain roles -- that feeling never leaves us. But we just learn, hopefully, as adults, to compartmentalize better than we could as teenagers."

Smith says the movie is particularly relevant with the kids participating in Arts Live.

"Here, we get kids from all backgrounds, from all walks of life, from all interest levels, and this is the one place they can come where they're not being judged. They're being praised for just being who they are as opposed to what they're expected to be."

Musician Kayleigh Calaway will be playing her acoustic guitar and singing 1980s-era hits during scene transitions. She says the script still has a lot to say to teenagers in 2017.

"I love it," she says. "I think it's very empowering to teenagers everywhere. It definitely has a message, and it's that it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from -- everybody has problems, and everybody is the same in a kind of general way."

NAN What's Up on 03/10/2017