Children perform for children, playing in an organized and coherent way to learn and gain life experience through theater.
1. To produce serious children’s theater using: historical theater, literary history and multicultural theater elements. Children learn the history and culture of each play while reading the script so that they can understand and experience the literature, history, and culture of that region, adding to their human experience.
2. To help children learn to love learning.
· Children who are recognized and applauded for their accomplishments tend to want to continue to participate in the activities for which they have been rewarded.
3. To help anyone who participates reach their theatrical and personal potentials. Arts and humanities are critical building blocks for a child’s development. Children work on improving and discovering their skills in: vocabulary, critical thinking, perspective, empathy, bravery and confidence, wisdom, understanding of motivations, coping mechanisms, character and character development, and public speaking. Children take a little piece of each character into life.
· The original text is used, keeping all the difficult vocabulary and nuisances in style.
· Shakespearean theater projection techniques are taught. Children become confident in their ability to express themselves.
4. To help children grow up strong, intelligent, wise, and empathic.
· Participation in theater creates productive outlets for the limitless energy that children have, increasing their ability to make better choices in their lives.
· “Hansel and Gretal” face insurmountable odds and are victorious in the end. However, they don’t go back to the parents who keep leaving them in the woods. Overcoming a scary situation, they stay at the gingerbread house and Aunt Bessie comes to live with them.
5. To learn to use puppets, masks, and acting through expressive body language.
· Wayang Golemn puppets are used to learn puppet movement and dance.
6. To celebrate humanity and the human spirit is more important than the technical perfection of a work. Having fun is the main priority.
· The focus here is enjoying the process
Interactive Children’s Theater
These productions take two to four months to produce. Never-Neverland Productions has been presenting two plays a year for the last five years. There have been nine productions, involving ninety- two children actors who have performed for over five thousand people. The Children’s Theater is performed by children for children and audience members to watch and participate in. The ages of participants range from four to twenty-one. Tryouts are open to anyone willing to get on the stage, and anyone who tries out is given a part according to their ability. Even shy children who can’t read find a space to learn and grow in the Children’s Theater. Acting students from Piqua High School and Edison Community College can participate in the program for college credit.
By producing interactive children’s theater, the audience members are offered the opportunity to participate in the play. Each production has interactions which encourage younger siblings and friends to come up on the stage and participate. During rehearsals these interactions are practiced and become the highlight of the performances.
“It was great to see the kids’ excitement. My family and I truly enjoyed the play and the audience involvement” – Dr. Alan Gusching DDS., Orthodontist
“RumpleStiltskin was a good way to spend the afternoon. I loved dancing with the other fairies.”-Joy Wills, employee at Susie’s Big Dipper (Age 17)
“My daughter (age 10) really enjoyed being asked onto stage as a fairy, with the wings, tiara, wand and all.”-Kathy Alexander, parent
Sound equipment is not used to make the actors audible. The young people learn projection in the same way that the Shakespearean Theater did, using the lower diaphragm to push out air. The scripts are abridged, not simplified, using the original stories or elements from the historical original story.
“Last year I watched 20 children stand up and lisp all of those difficult lines from Dickens’ Christmas Carol. I had expected a children’s version of an adult play, but here were 8 to 12 year olds performing as adults. Their pride in their performance was obvious, even though there were bumbles, and goofs, and forgotten lines. They were actors, and they were almost as delighted as their parents and siblings in the audience…”
Associate Professor of English, Edison Community College
B.A., Bowling Green State University; M.A., Wright State University
Actors such as Mike Gusching (14), Jamie Gusching (12), Matt Gusching (8), and Krysten Schieltz (16) have gone on to be in the adult productions of Shakespeare at Edison Community College. Proving themselves in the Children’s Theater arena gave them the confidence and the skills they needed to express their talent.
Jamie Gusching – Jamie debuted in “RumpleStiltskin” in 2000, continued in the summer and fall cast of “Reviving Cinderella”, and was a storm maiden in “Hansel and Gretal”. She went on to perform in Edison Community College’s production of the William Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” as one of the children of McDuff. Her most recent accomplishment was playing the “Wicked Witch of the West” in this season’s Piqua Catholic Junior High School’s production of the “Wizard of Oz”.
Brian Swinehart – took Acting I at Edison and performed the part of the prince in “How to Pick a Princess”. Brian has gone on to Los Angeles and has appeared in several television shows and movies.
Krysten Sheiltz – took Acting I at Edison while still in high school. She performed in “How to Pick a Princess” and “Reviving Cinderella”. Krysten is currently attending Hofstra University in New York, majoring in accounting and minoring in acting.
Sadie Bowman – took Acting I at Edison. She performed in “How to Pick a Princess”. Sadie obtained a four-year degree in Theater at the University of Minnesota and recently directed a production of “Lysistrata” in Minneapolis.
Jennifer Hill – took Acting I at Edison, performing in “Hansel and Gretal”. She is currently a radio personality on Bowling Green University’s Radio Station.
Jayson Grigsby – received an Associates degree at Edison. Jayson became a puppeteer in “RumpleStiltskin”. Jayson recently completed an internship at Shakepeare & Co., Lenox, MA.
The Issue of Abuse
“When I took the Child
Abuse Class offered by Miami County I found out that my hometown of Piqua, Ohio
has the highest rate in reported abuse cases in it’s county.
This area is a low-income
area with few preventative measures in place and health care professionals were
frustrated with having to fix things after the fact. I started researching play
therapy and incorporating elements into my theater productions and puppet shows.
These elements are subtle, with degrees of separation for the actual act of
abuse. Children look at the story as entertaining, but a child in an abuse
situation identifies with the story and internalizes it. Through viewing these
situations children can gain coping mechanisms and develop solutions. Each play
is reviewed by licensed child workers and educators.” – Matthew
Never-Neverland Productions has helped The Shelby County Coalition Against Domestic Violence for the last three years. We assisted in purchasing puppets, advising, purchasing their puppet tent and in the writing of two scripts; “A Very Berry Mess” and “Horrible Hank”. The Upper Valley Joint Vocational School students, 15-17 years old, were trained by Matthew Williams in a basic puppetry workshop and helped in directing the shows. No fee collected for these services.
“The Council wanted a forum to address issues of domestic
violence for children. With the help of Matthew Williams and his research on
theatrical therapy they started the puppet show. The Piqua JVS Early Childhood
Development Program was gracious enough to puppeteer the shows.” – The
Shelby County Coalition Against Domestic Violence
In “A Very Berry Mess” the issue is dealt with gently. The hero of the play is Herbie. Herbie has to go into the forest and pick strawberries. While he is picking strawberries he is captured by a bear who wants Herbie to scratch his back and scares him into doing it. The Bear threatens Herbie that if he tells, something bad will happen to him. Herbie finds a friend in Fraganard the Dragon. Fraganard helps Herbie scare off the bear and tell Herbie’s mother of the situation. Children learn disclosure.
The issue is addressed and done comically. Children in a similar situation feel empathy with the character. A child who doesn’t have anything wrong just enjoys a fun puppet show.
Workshops at Local
Workshops are offered for children ages five to twelve. These workshops are based around a mini play or skit that the children act in. The skits are based on an original text. It is not made politically correct or overly moralistic, but teaches the historical context behind the story. Some recent versions of “Jack and the Beanstalk” try to justify the actions of Jack by changing the story so that the Giant stole from Jack’s father. We left the story as is and Jack steals the possessions of a mean Giant.
‘Workshops focus on making puppets and masks and learning how to use them in a show. It is just as important to learn how to use the creation as it is to make it.”
– Matthew Williams
“New to Hayner’s summer class schedule was a series of art and theater classes taught by Matthew Williams. These classes proved to be very popular with students and parents alike. The bonus of his class structure is that family and friends get to participate by attending the weekend performances. Matt has a wonderful way of introducing his love of theater to children of all ages…” – Troy-Hayner Cultural Center in advertising home school classes.
This year we are investigating buying an old movie theater in Piqua, Ohio and converting it into a children’s arts and theater center. With this center we will offer a Kinder Music Program, Never-Neverland Production workshops, and independent dance and theater workshops and larger productions. It will be open to anyone who wants to produce a show, encouraging original musicals and productions by children for children.
"There is no way to fast forward and know how the
kids will look back at this, but I have seen
the joy in their eyes and have heard it in their voices and I have watched them
take a bow and come up taller."
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