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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Today’s Special: Stone Soup

    Erich Healy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Kelsey Redmond, a theater arts sophomore, in character at the dress rehearsal for  Stone Soup, performed by the UA School of Theatre, Film and Televisions Educational Theatre Company.  The Educational Theatre Company was created to give students in the BFA Theatre Education program the opportunity to produce plays and educational programs for young audiences.
    Erich Healy
    Erich Healy / Arizona Daily Wildcat Kelsey Redmond, a theater arts sophomore, in character at the dress rehearsal for Stone Soup, performed by the UA School of Theatre, Film and Television’s Educational Theatre Company. The Educational Theatre Company was created to give students in the BFA Theatre Education program the opportunity to produce plays and educational programs for young audiences.

    Remember the book “”Stone Soup”” from the first grade? Most of us do. The classic children’s story depicts three hungry soldiers bringing a selfish community together by asking passing villagers for cooking ingredients. Although the soldiers begin with only a stone in the pot, when each villager contributes just a little bit of food, the brewing stew slowly transforms into a glorious feast.

    If you don’t remember your teacher reading aloud, maybe you remember making stone soup with your class. Many UA students whom I spoke with still remember the activities that their elementary school teachers planned to go along with the story. Whether your clothes got stained because that one kid threw the stone into the pot, or you refused to eat the stew because you thought the rock was dirty, if the story made an impression, you are among the generations of kids who have enjoyed “”Stone Soup”” in one form or another.

    The version most American children read was written in by Marcia Brown in 1947, but the original idea comes from a folktale that is centuries old. And this week, the UA’s Educational Theater Company is adapting “”Stone Soup”” one more time, turning the tale into a theatrical production for children.

    Who is in charge?

    “”Stone Soup”” is being put on by the Educational Theater Company, a part of the School of Theater, Film & Television. Megan Dallas, a senior majoring in Theater & Outreach, is also the student director of the play. According to Dallas, the Educational Theater Company “”was created for students in the Theater Education Program. (It gives them) opportunities to perform for kids specifically as well as to direct children’s shows, which is what they’ll do in the future.””

    Although some adult actors are featured in the show, the directing, designing and much of the behind-the-scenes work is carried out by UA students. Dallas explained that theater majors from many age groups and specialties participate in the Educational Theater Company’s productions. “”We have … for actors, a couple of freshman and sophomores, and I believe two juniors. The designers, I believe, are all sophomores or juniors.”” So there are a variety of students who are able to get involved.

    Dallas also notes that the Educational Theater Company is important because it acts as a stepping stone between studying theater and actually entering the field. It’s a great opportunity for students to gain experience with what they’re doing for their major. The Educational Theater Company allows them to hone their skills in producing a play, but it isn’t overwhelming because many aspects of children’s theater are simple, exciting and fun. Dallas described the whole experience as “”a nice way to bring everyone together and have fun for the first show they’re in.””

    But it isn’t just the UA students who benefit from the company’s productions. Another important goal of the Educational Theater Company is community outreach. After the group performs its play on campus for several days, they’ll take the show on a local tour. Every Friday for the rest of the semester, the company will travel to many elementary schools in the Tucson area.

    “”It’s usually the whole school that comes and watches the show,”” Dallas said, so it’s really exciting for everyone involved.

    Why ‘Stone Soup?’

    Of course, the Educational Theater Company considers many factors when selecting which play they’re going to perform. Simple things like the number of actors available and which scripts work out best are important. However, Dallas says that the company also seeks pieces that promote certain values and ideas. They want to select plays with historical significance, support learning and teach children to share. “”Stone Soup”” was a standout piece “”because we have history in it, and we have the sharing aspect.””

    As for history, in Marcia Brown’s book (which was the inspiration for the Educational Theater Company’s production), the three main characters are French soldiers returning from the Napoleonic wars.

    The traditions that Dallas describes stem from the “”Stone Soup”” story itself — or rather, its many origins. Variations of this particular tale can be found in nearly 20 cultures, reaching English, French, Scandinavian, Russian and Hungarian folklore. Interestingly enough, although the basic premise is the same, the inedible object in the soup isn’t always a stone. In Scandinavian legend, the story is called “”nail soup,”” and in Eastern Europe, the stone is replaced by an axe.

    Altogether, the “”Stone Soup”” tale is relatable across many cultures and time periods. Not only does it remind readers to share their possessions, but its history can also remind us to share cultures.

    Who is involved?

    Wildlife visited the Educational Theater Company during one of their technical rehearsals to ask some of the cast and crew about their experiences working in the “”Stone Soup”” production.

     

    Jennifer Roberts, actress

    “”It’s a really fun show. Everybody’s high-energy, and we’re all pretty excited, especially about having kids in the audience. (“”Stone Soup””) is very funny, and I think even the big kids would like it. So they should try to come as well!””

     

    Traci Sepp, actress

    “”Probably the (best part of) theater for kids is the freshness of the audience. The audience isn’t really going to analyze it themselves, but that’s something we can help them do. It’s super fun. And also (with children’s theater) you get to be a little more lazzi — that’s the kind of humor we’re doing. It’s similar to slapstick, and it’s super fun.””

     

    Matthew Copley, actor

    “”I used to do children’s theater, and it’s really nice to be back to that because theater for children is a whole different creature. It’s really exciting. Children are one of the best audiences because they don’t hold anything back. They tell you exactly how they feel.””

     

    Amber Justmann, crew

     ””Working in a student production is really interesting, because most of the time when you work really organized theater, it’s very distant. It’s like Charlie’s Angels — you never get to see the guy! But in this group, it’s all very personal and up-and-close with everybody. So even though I’m in crew, I still talk to the cast, and I’m very in tune with all aspects of the show.””

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