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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Stories on Stage: Theater for the kiddies

    Theatre education and outreach senior Erin Kenski and theatre education junior Patti Jones rehearse a play for their project, Stories on Stage, Monday in the Drama building.  The play is a series of short stories that students will perform for children on Saturday at a local library.
    Theatre education and outreach senior Erin Kenski and theatre education junior Patti Jones rehearse a play for their project, Stories on Stage, Monday in the Drama building. The play is a series of short stories that students will perform for children on Saturday at a local library.

    Byrd Baylor, a Texas transplant who now calls Arizona home, is renowned for her child-oriented stories about life in the Sonoran Desert.

    Creative writing graduate student Laura Owen was one of those youngsters who read her books.

    Now, years later, Owen is helping to bring these childhood stories to life onstage.

    As part of the Stories on Stage project, a selection of four works by Baylor will be presented by a group of UA students at libraries across Pima County.

    The project stems from the class theatre arts 462/562 led by Barbara McKean, a theatre arts assistant professor. Titled Collaborative Play Development, the course offers students the opportunity to become more entrenched in play production.

    Stories on Stage is in its first year as an offering in the UA’s course catalog.

    “”The course is part of the theatre education and outreach for the School of Theatre Arts, and we collaboratively create plays on children’s works,”” McKean said.

    In rehearsals since the beginning of the spring semester, the choice to present Baylor’s works was up to McKean’s discretion, though she hopes to give students more of a voice in what works they will be presenting in the future.

    “”There are several reasons why I picked Mrs. Baylor,”” McKean said. “”She is an Arizona author and is so in touch with the geography of the Sonoran Desert, and her books have an ecological, environmental message with them.””

    The emphasis on the desert initially attracted Owen to Baylor’s works as a child, and is the reason she continues to identify with them.

    “”They’re particularly special to these kids in the desert,”” Owen said. “”It’s not very often that children’s books reflect your environment, and I think that it’s neat to see your home reflected in the books that you read.””

    Owen, who is working towards a master’s degree in creative writing, is one of the only graduate students in the class.

    Armed with a background in playwriting and acting, Owen was intrigued with the course offering and the change of pace from the solitary life of a writer to the more social, integrative approach of theater.

    “”I was interested in doing some theater activities,”” Owen said. “”In fiction there are not a lot of opportunities to explore theater.””

    In the midst of all this collaboration, however, there can be some halts to production with all the competing ideas. This is when the ogre comes in – no joke.

    “”We use a system where one is the ogre and that person is in charge for a while, and we do what she says and give feedback,”” Owen said.

    All had turns at the ogre position and Owen, though initially scared by the responsibility, eventually grew to enjoy the position.

    Though the material is driven towards children, McKean said there is something of value in this for people past the pubescent stage.

    “”She writes wonderful characters that have both the child’s voice and the adult’s voice, and they are easy to bring to life,”” McKean said.

    Wildlife in the desert is also brought to life with the actors embodying animals with minimal props and costumes.

    “”We have some rehearsal blocks and musical instruments and stars, but we leave a lot to the imagination,”” Owen said.

    Clad in the uniform of khaki pants and plain T-shirts, the company will bring its minimalist styling to the true test of child review.

    UA Stories on Stage will present “”A Byrd Once Told Me: Stories and Poems by Byrd Baylor”” this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Dusenberry-River Center Branch Library, 5605 E. River Road. Admission is free.

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