Stages for All Ages

This week, from Wednesday until Friday, the Robinson Players put on a production of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Here’s the best part: the production, geared towards children, was free to area schools and over three performances, we were able to offer a fun, theatrical experience to almost 900 elementary school children!

It’s really cool to be able to give something like that to young kids. I’m a person who has always grown up around theater—I was very lucky to have parents who took me to shows and sent me to camps and even sewed squirrel costumes for a crazy production of Sleeping Beauty in 1999 (thanks again Mom). But, at a recent Rob players board meeting, while reflecting upon how excited everyone was for the kids, we realized that for many, this could be their first time seeing a play in a theater. When you’re young, there’s something so incredible about seeing the magic of a play put on—especially when there’s lights, sounds, and other production surprises.

I have many memories of being in elementary school and going to Creative Arts camp every summer. We had dance, drama, music and art classes, but to be honest, we mostly cared more about going to the pool. However, the bigger kids, the 6th-9th graders existed above us. Surrounded by an air of indelible coolness, they put on three shows over the course of the summer that we, the younger kids, got to see every Tuesday. During talkbacks, every little kid would have a question to ask. “So in that part where she disappears, like, HOW does that work???” or “How did the Princess change her dress SO quickly??” And hearing these cool, older, talented kids telling us all their secrets, letting us in on their artistic process and the way they made the sound effects and light cues… it was the coolest thing. Ever.

For the record, now I spend my summers working at said performing arts camp. And every Tuesday when I see the shows, my heart swells when an 8 year old girl tugs at my sleeve eagerly to point out just how magical the theater is.

But, back to the chocolate factory. This production is an annual project the Rob players does during short term. Last year we did “Honk,” the year before was “Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing,” etc. The shows are always geared towards a 1st-4th ish age group, but the schools can send whichever grades they please.

So I wasn’t in the show, although I’d had wild plans of trying out and being in my first musical since 9th grade. Unfortunately, my brother’s college graduation happened to run at exactly the same time as the last performance (which explains why I’m writing this blog from New York. Congrats Sarah Lawrence class of 2010!). However, despite my inability to be a cast member, I had an equally important task: I had to fill the seats.

Remember how I said 900 kids? Yeah, I did that. I spent hours on email and the phone with principals and secretaries of all the elementary schools within an hour of Bates. Offering a free field trip was so fun, and many schools were eager to send their students. A lot of students. While overwhelming and a bit difficult to logistically place everyone, in the end, it was pretty incredible to be able to say, “yeah, so I organized 900 kids to come see free theater.” But that is what my job requires. This will have been my final task as the Outreach Coordinator on the board for the Rob players 09-10. Someone else will be responsible for this next year. My only regret is not being able to see any of the kids squealing with laughter and their faces in awe by the magic of theater come the end of the show.

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About nbrouder
I'm a senior at Bates College getting ready for thesis and the real world!

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