Originally created 05/17/02

Finding the clues



Some actors might chalk up working in a traveling children's production as just another experience to put on a resume, but not Roger Kraus.

To know he might be introducing children "to a lifelong obsession with the theater" is an awesome responsibility to the 26-year-old, who has 13 nieces and nephews.

"This is one of the first experiences a child might have in the theater," Mr. Kraus said. He plays Steve in Blue's Clues Live! Blue's Birthday Party, which will be staged through Sunday at Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St.

Based on the popular Nickelodeon television show for pre-schoolers, Blue's Clues Live! allows children to help Steve find out what Blue, a blue puppy, wants for her birthday. Children attending the performance will get a "handy dandy notebook" and crayon, just like Steve uses in the television show, to play along.

Other characters on stage include Blue's friends Tickety Tock, Slippery Soap, Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper. The production marks the stage debut of Blue's next-door neighbor, Periwinkle, her best friend, Magenta, and Baby Cinnamon.

Unlike some children's shows based on popular television series, this stage show is not on a pre-recorded track with the performers going through the motions. Everything is live, including the singing and dialogue. Only the music is recorded.

Mr. Kraus has been acting since he was 8. The native New Yorker was a semi-professional actor by the time he was in his early teens. He attended the LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts and has bachelor's degrees in theater and English from the City University of New York, Brooklyn College.

He has performed a wide range of roles, from Octavius in Julius Caesar, to Snoopy in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

However, the principles of acting Shakespeare are not too different from acting for children, he said.

"You use most of the same principles to make a play interesting. (With children) you make the ideas and speech clearer," he said. "And this is a heck of a lot more fun."

Mr. Kraus said Blue's Clues has been a part of his life since it first aired in 1996. During its six years, at least one of his nieces or nephews has been at the stage of enjoying the show.

And the character of Steve, originally played by Steve Burns on the TV series, is a likeable character. "I genuinely liked the work he'd done," he said. "He's never condescending, and he's quirky enough for adults to enjoy." Actor Donovan Patton replaced Mr. Burns as the show's host in late April.

In his performance, Mr. Kraus doesn't attempt to re-create Steve Burns, but brings a little of himself to the role as well. "The energy level has to be extraordinarily high," he said.

ON STAGE

WHAT: Blue's Clues Live! Blue's Birthday Party

WHEN: 7 tonight; 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: William B. Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St.

ADMISSION: $15-$26.50 (children age 2 and older must have tickets). Call 722-3521

Reach Charmain Brackett at (803) 441-6927 or czbrackett@hotmail.com.