Children’s theater delights with fresh take on fables


Maddie Magruder

Signalling the audience: Seniors Cheyenne Blackston (left), Whitney Wipfler (middle), and KaShaye Matthews (right) hold up signs during the play to encourage more audience interactionn. photo by Asa Lory

As grasshoppers sang and a timid mouse assisted a cowardly lion, elementary school children cheered on a slow but steady tortoise and booed a big, bad wolf.
The Children’s Theater brought to life its production of “Don’t Count Your Chickens Until They Cry Wolf,” a compilation of Aesop’s fables.
Junior Mallory Barnes, who saw the show with her Chemistry class, noticed not only that the younger kids liked it, but also the production was fun for RBHS students to watch and “really cute.”
The Children’s Theater 2-3 class started preparing for the play the first week of October after reading five plays and deciding on the menagerie of Aesop’s fables. During class time, the students blocked the show, organized costumes, rehearsed scenes and created make-up designs.
One of the main skills practiced in class was embodying the characters. Many of the characters are animals, which can be hard characters for students to portray.
Playing a mouse, a daughter and a townsperson, senior Sami Kanago worked on perfecting her voice down for her character as one of the three blind mice.
Children’s Theater teacher Terry Overfelt wanted Kanago to imitate a “high, squeaky voices,” Kanago said, “but we still need[ed] to be understandable.”
Senior Mitchell Taylor created a pompous, lazy lion from the “Lion and the Mouse” fable, very different from Kanago’s character. Taylor had to perfect a deep roar, make up a secret handshake with his friend the tiger, and develop the charisma for the “king of the jungle.” During his process, he found support and laughter from his fellow classmates.
“A lot of people who join Children’s Theater are pretty open, pretty easy to get along with,” Taylor said. “So it’s just a friendly environment.”
The show asks students to sing several songs, but angelic voices were not required.
As Overfelt told her students, it’s better to sing boldly, even if it might be out of tune.
“Some characters do need to sing and dance, but that is not a requirement or expectation in Children’s Theater class,” Overfelt said. “So we cast the show with no singing or dancing auditions, and then we work with each character to capture their part with exuberance and a joyful noise.”
With the bond the students had in this course, the play was a showcase of their hard work, both in and out of the classroom.
“This class brings out the very best in all of us,” Overfelt said. “It is a lot of work to be ready for a public audience, but it excites and enthuses us to do and be better.”When it was time for Udawatta to audition, pressure and nerves reared their heads, but she was prepared to face it with hours of practice. She made callbacks after her first audition and moved on to earn a spot as an alternate.
“I was a bit nervous right before my audition. I don’t think it helped then, but once I started playing … I was fine,” Udawatta said. “I wish I’d gotten into the state band, but I was OK with my results.”
By Maddie Magruder