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Background info about the stories and themes of ArtReach's plays
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STARS presents 'A Snow White Christmas'
UINTA COUNTY HERALD, Evanston WY
By: Kayne Pyatt, Herald Reporter

EVANSTON - Once again, the STARS Dance & Musical Theatre under the direction of Laurel Higdon and Caddie Welling produced a fun and entertaining evening for an audience that filled the Davis Middle School auditorium on Friday, Dec. 6.

"Seven elves, animal friends, the evil queen, the Prince and even Santa Claus!"
A Snow White Christmas play for kids Musical Christmas play Snow White
Local youth dance during the STARS performance of ArtReach's "A Snow White Christmas."
The group put on the show at Davis Middle School in Evanston on Dec. 6. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

Seventy-four children danced, acted and enthralled the audience with their acrobatic feats in a play titled "A Snow White Christmas," written by Kathryn Schultz Miller. The story was based on the Snow White fairy tale, with seven elves, animal friends, the evil queen, the Prince and Snow White, and even added Santa Claus to the cast.

"We had some of the best talent this year as many of the children have been in our program for several years now and are seasoned performers. This was a really fun show to produce," Welling said.

"Being involved with theater and music from a very young age gives kids an advantage when they are in the higher grades. It helps them get over fear and shyness, build confidence, learn to work together as a team, and all the time they just have fun," Welling said.

Other instructors at STARS include Ashli Johnson, Jenni Hogman and Jaeli Higdon who teach acrobat, ballet, tap and hip hop; ShanDee Welling and Monique McInnis are in charge of cheerleading; Amanda Bounds teaches tumbling and RoShawn Jones is the clogging instructor. Voice instruction is given by Jenni Hogman.

Welling said she is thrilled with the community support for their program. Classes meet once a week at the Aspen Church and they produce two shows a year. They are a nonprofit organization and do fundraising to support the program. They keep the ticket fee for shows at only $5 per person so families can afford to attend.

The spring show will be based on the story of Alice in Wonderland. Anyone interested in joining the STARS classes can call Welling at (307) 679-7369.

 "This was a really fun show to produce!"
ArtReach's "A Snow White Christmas".

"Being involved with theater and music from a very young age gives kids an advantage when they are in the higher grades. It helps them get over fear and shyness, build confidence, learn to work together as a team, and all the time they just have fun," Welling said.

Orland Park Theatre Troupe takes on ArtReach's Cinderella for inaugural summer children's show
Chicago Tribune:  By JESSI VIRTUSIO, DAILY SOUTHTOWN

So many actors auditioned for Orland Park Theatre Troupe's first all-children production that "Cinderella" is being presented by two full casts.

Blue Cast stages the show on the evening of Aug. 9 and for an Aug. 10 matinee while the Red Cast performs on the evening of Aug. 10 and for an Aug. 11 matinee.

"It's awesome to be involved in a show like this," said Dee Hamilton, director of "Cinderella."

"I've been doing this type of thing with just kids for many decades. You have some amazingly talented younger and older children. Especially with me teaching the village of Orland Park acting classes for almost 20 years, I've seen a lot of these wonderfully talented kids grow up in my classes," she said.

"I felt a real need for the children to really be able to show off their talents. We had over 100 audition and we had to double cast the show because we had so many interesting kids. This is above and beyond anything we anticipated but it's wonderful."

Hamilton, who has been involved in Orland Park Theatre Troupe shows for approximately 15 years, is working with Orland Park Recreation Program supervisor Jean Petrow, the show's executive producer, to stage "Cinderella."

"ArtReach added some really cool characters."
Cinderella play rehearsal
Ashanti Norals (left) portrays Fairy Godmother and Abby Sanford plays the title character in the Blue Cast
of Orland Park Theatre Troupe's "Cinderella." The show, which also features a Red Cast, runs Aug. 9-11 at
Orland Park Cultural Center. (Village of Orland Park) (HANDOUT)

"We got our rights from a place called ArtReach Children's Theatre Plays. What they specialize in is taking a show that all kids know and re-creating it a bit for large casts and young kids," said Hamilton, of Oak Lawn.

"It's the same story. Cinderella can't go to the ball and the Fairy Godmother comes but ArtReach has added some really cool characters. The mice talk. ArtReach added a narrator part and different little parts that give more opportunity for children to have speaking lines.

"I hate kids standing around doing nothing. This production and this version helps us to include them a lot more."

Members of the casts include Lockport, Mokena, Orland Hills and Tinley Park residents and range from ages 7-15.

"The Cinderellas' voices are beyond their years," said Hamilton about Abby Sanford and Tara Mastorakos who portray the title role for the Blue Cast and Red Cast, respectively.

"As popular as this production was this first time out, I think this is something we'll be able to continue. I was impressed by all the talent that came out. The singing and acting is phenomenal. It's a good, wholesome show and a nice family thing for people to come and see.

"It gives all the little girls and boys hope that dreams can come true. That's a cool message."

"Theater makes them feel good about themselves."
ArtReach's Play Cinderella
ArtReach's Cinderella - Athol-Royalston School Theatre, WA

In addition to her work with the village of Orland Park, Hamilton is drama club director for both Beecher High School and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Catholic School in Orland Hills.

"A lot of people don't realize that bringing children into theater makes them feel good about themselves. They gain experience with public speaking. They make a lot of new friends," she said.  "I've had little girls and boys who would sit in the corner and cry. Then they are up on stage and having lines because they're more confident in themselves and their ability. They're enjoying the fact that somebody believes in them.

"I'm all about urging the kids to do whatever they're good at and giving them their opportunity to shine, do what they love and have so much fun."

Learn More About the Real Mulan:  Hua Mulan is a Famous, Historical Figure
Background Info; featuring Photos from Jeugdtheater Crea Deinze's production in Belgium

A historical figure famous for disguising herself as a man is Hua Mulan. Her name has long been synonymous with the word "heroine", yet opinions differ as to whether this is her real name. According to Annals of the Ming, her surname is Zhu, while the Annals of the Qing say it is Wei. Xu Wei offers yet another alternative when, in his play, Mulan Joins the Army for Her Father, he gives her the surname Hua. Others using The Ballad of Mulan as their guide have attributed her surname to be Mu.

"Mulan is well known and has provided much inspiration for poetry."
The Legend of Mulan Mulan play script for kids
ArtReach's The Legend of Mulan - Jeugdtheater Crea Deinze, Belgium

There is also some confusion concerning her place of origin and the era in which she lived. She is said by some to have come from the Wan County in Hebei, others believed she came from the Shangqiu province in Henan and a third opinion is that she was native of the Liang prefecture in Gansu. One thing seems certain though. Hua Mulan was from the region known as the Central Plains. Cheng Dachang of the Song Dynasty recorded that Hua Mulan lived during the Sui and the Tang Dynasties. Song Xiangfeng of the Qing Dynasty asserted that she was of Sui origins (AD 581-618) while Yao Ying, also of the Qing Dynasty, believed she was from the time of the Six Dynasties. No record of her achievements appears in official history books prior to the Song times. Stories circulated in China's Central Plains indicate that she must have lived before the Tang Dynasty.

"History books & legends do at least agree on one thing - her accomplishments."
Script for Legend of Mulan Kids Play Mulan Script
ArtReach's The Legend of Mulan - Jeugdtheater Crea Deinze, Belgium

Both history books and legends do at least agree on one thing - her accomplishments. It is said that Hua Mulan's father received an order to serve in the army. He had fought before but, by this time, was old and infirm. Hua Mulan knew it was out of the question for her father to go and her only brother was much too young. She decided to disguise herself as a man and take her father's place.

The troops fought in many bloody campaigns for several years before they obtained permission to return home. Hua Mulan was summoned to the court by the emperor, who wished to appoint her to high office as a reward for her outstanding service. Hua Mulan declined his offer and accepted a fine horse instead.

Only later, when her former comrades in arms went to visit her, did they learn that she was a woman.

The story of Hua Mulan is well known and has provided much inspiration for poetry, essays, operas and paintings.

“It is amazing what a woman can do if only she ignores what men tell her she can’t.”
-- Carol K. Carr

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Scary story or practical joke?
Washington Irving’s classic story is just a fun, practical joke!

Hollywood and many contemporary storytellers like to link The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to stories like the contemporary Friday the Thirteenth or The Walking Dead, with lots of terrifying ghosts and gory un-headings.  In fact, Washington Irving’s story is about nothing more than a practical joke played by one man upon his rival; an attempt to secure his intended lady’s hand.

Build Your Own Headless Horseman!
The Ride of the Headless Horseman!  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow! Small & Large Cast Halloween Plays for Children - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
( Instructions for Headless Horseman Costume in Teacher's Guide )

Katrina is wise to Brom Bones’ joke.  She knows that the hills of Sleepy Hollow are not haunted any more any other place in the new republic.  She enjoys watching as participating as Ichabod Crane is scared into believing in ancient haunts.  He is nothing more than an unwitting participant in her dance of courtship with the brawny Bones.

 Brom Bones, sensing that Katrina’s head is momentarily turned by the "sophisticated” school teacher from Connecticut, attempts to show her what a coward he really is.  Katrina plays along, seeming to be convinced of Ichabod’s superiority, until at last she gets "her man”.

Though Johnny Depp and the producers of the movie, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, want to offer a scary Halloween thrill, Washington Irving’s original story is considerably less bloody.  Irving’s character Brom Bones is successful in scaring his rival Ichabod Crane from the Hollow, securing his pact with the lovely Katrina who happily joins her darling Brom in an enthusiastic trip down the chapel aisle.


What Can Dragons Teach Us About Bullying?
The Reluctant Dragon Takes on the Bullies

Kenneth Grahame’s classic story strikes a chord with contemporary readers because it stirs in us a natural compassion for others.  In The Reluctant Dragon we meet a dragon who is a misfit among mythical beasts – a peaceful soul who just wants to enjoy life with friends.  Similarly, the boy who meets the dragon is misunderstood and longing for excitement.  We cheer at the end because we are pleased to see the underdog triumph.

"Use literature to launch a discussion on bullying."
Train you Dragon Play for Kids! Widget trains his dragon - The Reluctant Dragon!

In ArtReach’s version of The Reluctant Dragon, Widget and Hairytoes are plagued by the neighborhood bullies, the Grody Gobsters.  As members of a group who consider themselves superior to others, the Gobsters have none of Widget’s insecurities or yearnings.  As a result they tease and pester our heroes and even call for the destruction of their beloved dragon.   Though this play is set in a fairytale world with lots of laughs and a satisfying final solution, we know that similar stories in life do not always end so happily.

Have your students read Grahame’s classic short story.  Then read the first in the popular series of books How to Train Your Dragon, which was inspired by the classic.  Have them discuss the similarities and differences in the stories.  How is the theme of bullying used in order to make the story more contemporary?  Then use the discussion of this literature to launch a deeper discussion on bullying in your school.


PRIMARY SCHOOL DRAMA PRODUCTIONS WELL UNDERWAY
Mandurah Catholic College, AU - Kid Frankenstein

Primary School Drama productions Kid Frankenstein and Law and Order: Fairytale Unit are well underway, with the students ramping up rehearsals, having their first dress rehearsal this week. The students were abuzz during this week's run-through as they started to see characters coming to life through costume.

"The kids are loving it. It's really a big journey for them."
Kid Frankenstein Play for Young Performers Fun Frankenstein Play for Students!
ArtReach's Kid Frankenstein - Madurah Catholic College, Primary School

Show co-director Mrs Corinna Herbert is really happy with how the productions are shaping up. "Were just finalising blocking of the show. Costumes and set have all arrived and there's a buzz in the air - the kids are loving it. It's really a big journey for the kids - for a lot of them, this is their first time on stage - and they're experiencing what theatre is about and they're realising that it's not just about learning lines. It's that realisation that we start seeing in their faces about now. Watching the friendships and the trust build between them is really lovely as well. To me drama club brings out a different side of learning for the kids. They learn to trust themselves more and they learn to have confidence and conviction when they do something and I think that's such a valuable skill. I've seen very shy kids come into drama club, too scared to say a word, and then they get on stage and they trust themselves and they work as a team - it brings out a whole different side to them. It's really lovely and to me, that's what drama club is all about."

Former student Elizabeth Crook has returned to the College to help out with the productions. "Drama is a passion of mine and I'm getting back into it through this production experience. It's also the love of the College that's brought me back. I was trying to get into something like this, so this experience has come along at a perfect time for me. It's a fantastic outlet."

For Year 10 student Jamie Kilcoyne, this is his fourth show with the College. "It's so much fun - I love it. I got work experience at MPAC because of the experience I got working on College productions. I love it when it finally comes together at the end - that's my favourite part. This time I am again working on lighting, sound and production."


Local girl gains confidence through summer camp
Drama Kids features ArtReach's The Wizard of Oz

KBTX-TV Channel 3, Bryan TX - By Katerina Biancardi

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) 9-year-old Maryanne Hollinger joined Drama Kids of BCS three years ago. She recalls her initial memory with theatre.

"I stuttered every single time I spoke," Maryanne said.

More than 6 million Americans struggle with speech, language, and voice impairments according to the National Institute on Deafness and Communications Disorders.  Maryanne's parents noticed her speech impediment as a young child. Her mother, Kelli, says she had concerns.

"That the confidence was challenged if she was made fun of in the classroom was something we were really aware of," she said.

"When I get up on stage, I can't stop smiling."

Drama Kids of College Station TX produced ArtReach's The Wizard of Oz

Maryanne says her stutter made her shy.

"I didn't really like to be around other people," Marianne said. "But Drama Kids helped me to break out of my shell."

This week, Maryanne stars as Toto and the gatekeeper in the production of Wizard of Oz. Kelli says the camp strengthened what Maryanne learned in speech therapy.

"It reinforces many of the principles she was learning in class as well as give her a fun outlet," Kelli said.

An outlet Maryanne loves.

"When I get up on stage, I can't stop smiling," Maryanne said.

Besides the smiles, Kelli says Maryanne is gaining more than she realizes.

"My child has the confidence to go in front of an audience, speak in front of her church, ask questions of adults," Kelli said. "Those are lifetime skills."

Maryanne plans on using those lifetime skills when she grows up. She hopes to be a veterinarian and also a drama class teacher.

Drama Kids of BCS offers summer camps and programs throughout the school year.


Broadway Plays v. ArtReach Plays: What’s the Difference?
Are ArtReach’s plays better than a Broadway Musicals for kids?

Broadway plays are written for professional adult actors who have spent long years studying their craft and have already proven their exceeding talent.  Professional actors have trained to deliver long, difficult speeches and have spent years learning the most advanced vocal and physical moves.  Broadway plays also rely on expensive and state-of-the-art technical stagecraft.  These scripts are usually quite long with elaborate scene changes and an intermission.  Also, since big productions are star vehicles, the spotlight will always linger on the star of the show rather than the team of performers who support the project as a whole.  Though some of your most talented kids may clamor to do the original, is it really the best choice for your school?

Everyone has a Role in ArtReach’s Peter Pan
Peter Pan for a Large Cast of Kids!
Peter Pan -- Shoultes Elementary School, Marysville, WA

ArtReach’s School Plays are written just for kids to perform.  There are no long speeches or difficult scenery requirements.  Peter Pan, for instance, allows up to four kids play the coveted role of Peter Pan so that not one child is the star.  Even better, each and every other role has a distinct name and at least a few lines to give them their big moment to shine.   Special kids and kids in wheelchairs may be cast and given the chance to fit right in with the team of performers.  No one is discouraged, no one dreads rehearsals.  Best of all, you have the right and ability to change the play – write lines, characters, songs – in order to serve your unique group of superstars!

 Ask yourself, do you want to start out with a script that may be too difficult for many kids?  Do you want to encourage only the brightest talents, or do you want to allow everyone to have the most positive experience?   Do you want to bring out the best in each every child in your cast?  Check out any of ArtReach’s School Plays and you’ll soon see the difference.


Theatre is Daydreaming in Motion
Any child can ride a giant crane or become a princess!

Like all artistic expression, theatre is a celebration of life’s experiences.  For children it is even more. It is a reaching for the future, an exploration of what is to come, a lovely excuse to dream about the path that lies ahead.   Any child can ride a giant crane or become a princess, a wizard or a knight in shining armor.  Any child can kick around all the reasons why princesses do what they do; experience all the obstacles and triumphs involved in slaying that pesky dragon.  Navigating through a theatre world is daydreaming in motion.  And it can be a wondrous and nurturing place to grow.

"Place your emphasis on the joy of creation."

ArtReach Plays offers lots of information and suggestions to enhance the learning experience and many tips on directing.  You can pick and choose what makes the most sense for you and your students.  You know what to do with it – you’re the teacher!

Our children have a long dream ahead of them.  This is the place for them to test their creativity, explore their farthest limits, and to begin to understand the place they will take in the real world.   All the things that might worry you, the things you might think are important – costumes, scenery, learning lines, getting it right, making it "good” – have very little to do with the blossoming that is going on in a young player’s mind.

Every ArtReach school play has been written to take the emphasis off of all that, leaving you to concentrate on what really matters.  It’s the process - that feeling around in the dark - that means the most.   Place your emphasis on the joy of creation.  At every bump in the road choose the path of fun and exploration.  Give your young friends a safe place to "play” and imagine.  Give them roots and wings&ldots; 

And guess what?  I promise you – the play will be better than your wildest dreams!


The Velveteen Rabbit: The Power of Love
What does Margery Williams tell us about love in her wonderful Christmas Classic?

Margery Williams’ beloved classic seems to tell us that love makes us Real.  Since The Velveteen Rabbit longs to be Real and eventually becomes a wild bunny, it’s easy to miss the deeper meaning.

The Boy loves his toy rabbit so much that the toy shows its age and becomes shabby.  But is Williams really talking about how much a Boy loves a toy?

"It's about finding the courage to pursue a happy adulthood."
The Velveteen Rabbit - Christmas Musical for Kids! Classic Story for a Musical Christmas

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

As we age we become shabbier just like the Velveteen Rabbit and his mentor the Skin Horse.  We may suffer a few bumps and scrapes along the way, but sooner or later we go out of doors and find our own path in a wild new world.

Just as Michael (The Boy in ArtReach’s version of The Velveteen Rabbit) recovers from illness and begins to pursue his dreams, so do we all break free of the trappings of childhood and find strength in the past to begin a new future.  Although, Margery Williams’ story will bring a tear to your eye, it is really a very hopeful story about a Boy who is stepping out into his own new world and finding the courage to pursue a happy adulthood.

As the play ends, everyone gathers around the Christmas tree.  Michael realizes that love of family and friends (real and imagined) has carried him through the difficulties of childhood and he is now prepared to face the future.

Fifth and Sixth Grade Students Perform The Velveteen Rabbit
Christmas Musical Velveteen Rabbit Velvetee Rabbit Christmas Musical
Canfield Village Middle School, Canfield OH - Lower Lake High School, CA

Canfield Local School Newsletter:  Fifth and sixth grade students will be performing the original "Toy Story" The Velveteen Rabbit at Canfield Village Middle School. The Velveteen Rabbit, or How Toys Become Real, is a British children's book written by Margery Williams and illustrated by William Nicholson. It chronicles the story of a stuffed rabbit's desire to become real through the love of his owner.  The curtain goes up in the front gymnasium of Canfield Village Middle School on November 9 & 10, at 7:30 p.m. and November 11, at 2:00 p.m.  Tickets will be sold at the door. Admission is $6 for adults and students. Children under four are free.

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