Groups eager to introduce children to live theater

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In a world of television and video games, many young children have limited experience with live theatrical performances; however, there are opportunities throughout the school year to give children a chance to see stage shows.

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Children from Wheeless Road Elementary School sit and watch last season's Storyland Theatre production of The Frog Prince at Imperial Theatre. The children's theater group opens its season in late October with Bilbo and the Magic Ring.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
Children from Wheeless Road Elementary School sit and watch last season's Storyland Theatre production of The Frog Prince at Imperial Theatre. The children's theater group opens its season in late October with Bilbo and the Magic Ring.

The University of South Carolina Aiken and Storyland Theatre produce shows for children, and Georgia Regents University’s Literacy Center brings in the Patchwork Players to provide theater.

USC Aiken’s only performance aimed at school children will be presented next week. Directed by senior Lauren Ellis, The Jungle Book isn’t the Disney version, but it’s based on the Rudyard Kipling tale.

The show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, at the USC Aiken Etherredge Center. There are also performances for school groups at 9 and 11 a.m. Sept. 23 and 24.

“I’ve had people already ask about the Bare Necessities,” Ellis said. “It’s based on the book and is different. It’s not a musical.”

It might be different from the cartoon version, but Ellis said there’s plenty in the play to draw young audiences into theater magic such as an interactive tropical storm scene.

Ellis, who has been involved in many productions at USC Aiken and Aiken Community Playhouse, is excited about the opportunity to present something with younger audiences in mind.

“This is one of the best experiences I’ve had,” she said. “It’s been so much fun for everyone.”

For ticket information, call the box office at (803) 641-3305.

SINCE ITS inception more than two decades ago, Storyland Theatre has introduced thousands of children to live theater.

“In 25 years, we’ve had 573,263 people attend our performances,” said Barbara Feldman, the executive director of Storyland Theatre, which presents most of its productions to elementary school-aged audiences during the school day.

Feldman started the organization 26 years ago to provide her daughter, Nancy, with a quality, live theatrical experience. Even though her daughter is now an adult and working behind the scenes in a theatrical setting, Feldman keeps offering the magic of live theater to young children.

Each season, Storyland Theatre presents its three plays at Imperial Theatre. This year, the offerings are Bilbo and the Magic Ring, Oct. 29-Nov. 2; The Courtship of Senorita Florabella, Jan. 28-Feb. 1; and Hansel and Gretel, April 1-5.

All three of the productions were written by Richard Davis Jr. Bilbo and the Magic Ring, loosely based on The Hobbit, and Hansel and Gretel are musicals with scores written by Susan Burgess. The Courtship of Senorita Florabella is an original work.

To help teachers integrate their Storyland Theatre field trip into their curriculum, the theater troupe provides a guide that meets state standards in both Georgia and South Carolina, she said.

School shows are presented at 9:30 and 10:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Tickets are $5 each; however, there are special rates available based on need. Season tickets are $12 per student. Teachers and chaperones are admitted free. Reservations are required for school shows by calling (706) 736-3455.

A family matinee is at 3 p.m. on the Saturdays of a show week. Tickets are $6 with no reservation required. Active-duty military with ID and their families are admitted free.

AT GEORGIA REGENTS University, productions are offered through a theatrical group called the Patchwork Players, based in Columbia.

The Patchwork Players target a younger audience than Storyland.

Patchwork’s productions are designed for preschoolers and kindergarteners and incorporate puppets as well as actors.

This season includes The Wizard of Oz: Highlighting the Scarecrow of Oz on Oct. 16; Gingerbread Man on Dec. 11; Snow White on Jan. 15; The Ant and the Grasshopper on Feb. 26; Jack and the Beanstalk on March 26; A Selection of Fairy Tales on April 30; and Aesop’s Fables Family Fun Fair on June 11.

Tickets are $3 each or $2 for groups of 15 or more. Call (706) 737-1625 for more information.


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