Last Saturday morning, Terry Veal died tragically and brought the house down.
The dozen or so children and adults who turned out for Reduxion Theatre’s second “Classics for Kids” program of the season laughed uproariously as the actor’s Touchstone character hit the Broadway Theater stage with many dramatic moans and groans, allegedly felled by a plastic arrow from a mock-up English longbow.
The loudest laughs came from my son, Gabriel, 7, who was experiencing Shakespeare for the first time and to that point had been more interested in scoring a pre-lunch Hershey’s bar than in the “Henry V” excerpt playing out on stage.
It’s amazing what a good death scene can do to catch a first-grader’s attention.
The next thing I knew, Gabe was volunteering to play Moonshine’s dog as the four-person company acted out the “Pyramus and Thisbe” drama from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” My boy was so interested in chatting — quietly, at least — with patient actress/puppeteer Jessa Schinske that he almost missed his cue to bark, but still, his performance must be considered a success.
“My favorite part was me being the puppy,” Gabe said after the show. “I’ve never been on the stage before during a play. That was fun.”
Made for kids
Helping children find the fun in classical works is the goal of Reduxion’s “Classics for Kids” series, which is expanding with the company’s recent move into its larger performance space inside Automobile Alley’s Cadillac Building.
“I love it. I love performing for the kids, especially something like this that they’re not really quite familiar with. So we get to introduce them to this stuff,” Veal, who recently retired from teaching theater at Classen School of Advanced Studies, said after the show. “I wish I’d had this when I was a kid. I think it’s a great idea, a great experience.”
For parents who want to take their youngsters to a family-friendly show in a real theater space, Reduxion is staging “Classics for Kids” Saturday mornings in March inside of its Broadway Theater. In April, the company will take its 50-minute shows starring Professor Spillsby (Elizabeth Brooks) and his pals the Juggling Fiends on tour with free shows at various Metropolitan Library System locations.
Although Reduxion Theatre has been taking its reimagined classics into local libraries since 2009, the company last summer launched an original series of Professor Spillsby shows as part of the library system’s popular Neighborhood Arts program. The summer run was such a hit that Dana Morrow, the library system’s director of outreach, suggested Reduxion embark on a spring tour with multiple Professor Spillsby scripts, said Managing Director Erin Woods.
Saturday marked the debut of the second of four planned original plays, “Professor Spillsby Goes to the Festival.” In the show, the earnest Professor Spillsby and his troupe the Juggling Fiends — a trio of actors named for famous Shakespearean clowns: Touchstone (Veal), Falstaff (Sue Ellen Reiman) and Dogberry (Schinske, who also performs as a puppet named Moth) — trek to the River Bottom Shakespeare Festival and tangle with Spillsby’s conniving college-days rival Ms. Crabtree (Veal) in a quest to win the fest’s science contest.