Theatre — It's Child's Play

It's Child's Play

by Michelle Saturley

Palace Youth Theatre takes on grammar, Shakespeare 

For the last two years, Darcy Blauvelt has made a living by acting up with a bunch of kids. And they’re all having a blast.

Blauvelt is the artistic director for the Palace Youth Theatre company. She not only works with Executive Director Peter Ramsey to select the company’s season of shows each year, she also directs about half the shows and runs the Youth Theatre Camp program.

The kids will deliver their version of Schoolhouse Rock Live on Jan. 21 and 22 at The Palace. Those who grew up in the ’70s and early ’ 80s will undoubtedly remember Schoolhouse Rock from their cartoon days, when educational television was in its infancy. Between Bugs Bunny and Captain Caveman, youngsters were treated to four-minute animated shorts that taught us, in a musical format, about conjunctions, nouns, adjectives, the Preamble of the Constitution, and counting by threes. Since then, the songs have been made into a musical smash hit.

“Every season, we choose a show that turns out to be wildly popular,” Blauvelt said. “This year, that show is Schoolhouse Rock. I think it’s because the younger kids are just discovering it, while their parents still remember it from when they were kids.

The Palace will hold daytime performances for school field trips the week of Jan. 18-21. Originally, they had only planned on one public performance on Jan. 22 at 10 a.m., but the event sold so well, another show has been added on Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.

While the kids are excited to strut their stuff in the popular musical, they are already hard at work on their next production: Shakespeare’s master comedy, Twelfth Night. The cast has been rehearing since December, and will open the show on Feb. 12.

Isn’t the Bard a little too lofty for young thespians?

“Shakespeare was never meant to be taught in a high school English class,” Blauvelt said. “It was meant to be performed. Seeing the action that accompanies the dialogue brings it to life, for people of any age.”

Blauvelt began her Shakespearean experiment last year during the Youth Theatre Summer Camp when she introduced the students to Macbeth.

“It took them a little while to wrap their brains around the language, but once we stripped that away and boiled it down to this fascinating story, they were hooked,” she said. “Ever since then, they’ve been asking me when they could do another Shakespeare play.”

Blauvelt purposely chose Twelfth Night because she wanted to dispel the myth that performing Shakespeare is always such a serious affair.

“This is a perfect show for the kids to do, because they can get really zany with it,” she said.

Blauvelt cast two real-life identical twins in the roles of Viola and Sebastian, which she says has been fun for the whole cast.

“The two girls make that aspect of the show all the more believable, because they look exactly alike,” she said. “And it doesn’t matter that they’re both female, because they both dress like males at different parts of the play.”

Aside from the obvious educational component contained in many of the shows, Blauvelt says the young actors are taking much more away from the theater experience.

“Many of these kids involved in the program feel like misfits at school, because maybe they aren’t athletes,” she said. “My favorite part of this whole experience is when one of the kids’ school friends comes to the show and sees them up on stage. It’s a chance for a kid who maybe doesn’t get recognized at school for his or her accomplishments to get some of that attention for a while.”

Tickets for Schoolhouse Rock Live are still available for the Friday, Jan. 21 show at 7 p.m., and the Saturday, Jan. 22 show at 10 a.m. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night will run on Saturday, Feb, 12 at 10 a.m. To buy tickets, call The Palace Box Office at 668-5588.

-Michelle Saturley

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