A trip to see a show at Trike Theatre is often the first exposure to theater arts for many of the 3- to 5-year-olds in the region -- a fact that is a point of pride for Northwest Arkansas' professional theater for youth. Since its founding in 2008, Trike has set out to not only entertain children, but also to create an environment where families can "see, learn and do," as its website explains.
So what happens when a global pandemic interrupts Trike's efforts to create new theater lovers through exposure to live plays? The creative minds at Trike develop the 360 Trike-sperience, a virtual, innovative and interactive way to deliver their content to young viewers at home. First up for the 360 Trike-sperience is the theater company's ever popular production of "Three Billy Goats Gruff," which, over the past five years, has become a fan favorite.
"Parents love it because it is a gentle story perfect for 3- to 6-year-olds and a familiar title," says Trike's founder and artistic director, Kassie Misiewicz. "Kindergarten teachers love it because many of them lead a 'Three Billy Goats Gruff' unit in their classes, and this play fits nicely into comparing similarities and differences with other versions of the story. The kids love it because they are invited to help the trolls retell the story and get to witness two characters who start the play arguing and, by the end, become friends. We love it because our young audiences are brilliant!"
Misiewicz says the 360 Trike-sperience is carefully formulated to give the same hands-on experience the kids would have gotten in the theater -- and more.
"We believe that theatre is not transactional but rather a shared, creative experience with the artists and audience," says Misiewicz. "During the pandemic, our desire to connect to and nurture our relationship with youth and families has led to the development of participatory virtual production experiences.
"We believe that theater is created with our audience, like a conversation. The 360 Trike-sperience is our fullest realization of this," Misiewicz says. "We present a play and provide additional literacy and SEL participatory opportunities that expand our young audience's experience. Then it's the youths' turn to create and respond to Trike Theatre, which culminates in their creative response to the play (Trike's 'Watch Me') so that Trike can be the audience, virtually. Taking a seat in the audience allows Trike artists to be inspired by youths' creativity and to continue to create stories that are meaningful to young audiences.
"The 360 Trike-sperience offers flexibility because groups, schools and families can purchase the experience and engage with it on a day and time that works best for them," she adds. "With virtual programming, we broaden our audience and provide an even greater accessibility to theater arts. Post-pandemic, this new virtual performance experience will remain a valued part of our season in addition to the in-person plays performed (which are paused at this time)."
‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’
WHEN — Watch party, 3 p.m. Saturday; school/group performances, Oct. 19-Nov. 20
WHERE — Trike Theatre online
COST — Saturday performance is free; school/group performance1s, $40/household, $100/up to 20 students
INFO — triketheatre.org