StageOne’s StoryTellers leap from the page to a child’s imagination
By Laura Ross
Photos courtesy of StageOne
“One more story, please?!?” is a mantra many moms and dads hear nearly every day. Now, StageOne Family Theatre is stepping in to help with the launch of StoryTellers this season.
The program takes beloved children’s books and brings them to life through imagination, music and plenty of audience interaction. It’s geared toward children ages two through eight and provides an afternoon of imagination and exploration that makes reading fun.
“Children this age are very curious about the world around them,” said Hannah Wemitt, StageOne director of education. “They ask a lot of questions and love to engage in the process. By using familiar storybooks, we invite them to take the journey with our actors by becoming storytellers themselves in a unique way.”
Each program features three to four book titles as told by three actors – with the addition of a live musician, costumes, props and projections of each page onto a screen in the background.
StoryTellers premieres Aug. 25 for StageOne audiences. “Our first StoryTellers theme is TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, BAD and will feature ‘Dragon Was Terrible’ by Kelly DiPucchio, ‘Horrible Bear’ by Ame Dyckman and ‘The Bad Seed’ by Jory John,” said Wemitt. “Each of these titles explore characters with terrible habits, horrible manners and bad attitudes and moments that brought about change.”
The theme of the September StoryTellers event is I’M NOT AFRAID! with “Never Tickle a Tiger” by Pamela Butchart, “Scaredy Squirrel” by Melanie Watt and “What the Ladybird Heard” by Julia Donaldson.
StoryTellers is not the traditional story hour of old. Children and adults are encouraged to sit on the floor around the performers and help tell the story through music, art and creative experiences. Children leap into the story itself and often become an integral part of the action. “Most of our seating is on carpet squares on the floor, encouraging families to jump in and play with us,” said Wemitt. “Another reason we incorporate the book pages on the projector screen is for our guests with autism spectrum disorder or sensory processing disorder.
“We’re bringing a lot of new stories into our season that I’m really excited about, including ‘Never Tickle a Tiger,’” added Wemitt. “The main character, Izzy, is constantly told to stop fidgeting, squirming and bouncing and one day finds herself in a heap of trouble at the zoo. I love this story because it looks at consequences in a fun way but also encourages solving our own problems, which is very empowering for a young child.”
The actors love performing some of their childhood favorites as well. “You can’t really go wrong as an actor, as the kids are so willing to buy into what you’re doing,” said StoryTeller Megan Adair. “They allow themselves to believe. I love that we’re reinforcing to kids that their imagination is the key component in acting out stories.”
Wemitt agreed. “I love watching the children experience the joy and fun in the storytelling. Their eyes light up, and they jump up on their feet when they know what’s on the next page. It’s like being at a high-energy concert. They’re connecting the dots and through each story are learning amazing lessons on kindness, empathy and making mistakes. But, the twist is watching the parents get just as excited. For 45 minutes, it’s anything goes – we’re all taking the ride and there are no expectations other than having fun.”
As StageOne kicks off its 72nd season, the theater company also welcomes Idris Goodman as the company’s new producing artistic director. Goodwin succeeds Peter Holloway, who recently left after 11 years with the theater.
Goodwin brings more than 16 years of experience in theater and the performing arts to StageOne. A playwright, director, orator, poet and educator, Goodwin has covered all aspects of theater in his career. For StageOne, he wrote and produced “American Tales” and the widely produced “And In This Corner: Cassius Clay,” winner of the 2017 Distinguished Play Award from The American Association of Theatre and Education. His work has been widely recognized and includes the critically acclaimed play “How We Got On,” developed at the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, which premiered in Actors Theatre of Louisville’s 2012 Humana Festival. His one-act “Black Flag” was produced Off-Broadway.
Goodwin’s poetry has appeared on HBO, The Discovery Channel, The BBC, NPR, Sesame Street and National Public Radio. A seasoned educator, Goodwin has taught across the United States and was most recently an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Colorado College, where he was voted Teacher of the Year.
“StageOne has enriched the lives of young audiences and the communities that surround them for longer than I have been alive,” said Goodwin. “What an incredible honor to be able to further weave myself into its indelible legacy.”
In addition to StoryTellers and other stage and educational programs offered by StageOne, the company’s mainstage season kicks off in October with Goodwin’s adaptation of “Frankenstein.” Holiday favorite “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” returns in December and will feature 32 local student actors.
In 2019, StageOne presents Judy Blume’s “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” and the season closes with “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.”
StageOne is recognized as one of the nation’s leading professional theaters for children, reaching more than 80,000 young people, their families and teachers each season. VT
StoryTellers at StageOne Family Theatre kicks off its monthly presentations on Aug. 25. Due to fire damage at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, StageOne’s August performance location is pending and will be announced shortly on their website, stageone.org. Showtimes for StoryTellers are at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
StageOne Family Theatre
315 W. Market St., Suite 2S
Where They Perform:
The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 W. Main St.