Thank You, Reba!

Beauty and the Beast dancing
Emma as Bella and Gabe Walker as the prince in Beauty and the Beast.

Emma Cooper is an actor who first appeared on the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine stage last fall as Bella in Beauty and the Beast. In the past year, she’s spent countless hours here rehearsing and performing with friends and peers under the guidance of our Theatre Artistic Director, Reba Short. Emma wrote this essay for a school assignment this spring and shared it with Reba and the actors in the Youth Voices on Stage project (learn more about it here or here). Reba was very moved and shared it with me, and I wanted to share it with you – Emma writes so eloquently of the very special experience our actors have here. If you or someone you know would like to have an experience like Emma’s, we have an audition workshop this week and auditions for Little Red Riding Hood next Wednesday, June 8.

Emma writes:

When you’re a child magic is everywhere. Things become what they aren’t. A boulder becomes a fortress for a fairy army, a bumble bee a fairy prince’s noble steed. Mermaids frolic in the frothy waves at the beach and terrible monsters lurk in woods. Anything is possible. You can fly, become invisible and even become a cat. It all happens. Then, a strange phenomenon called “growing up” occurs. 

Boulders begin to look like really big rocks. Bumble bees become foul pests who sting. The waves don’t seem that imposing and the mermaids are really just loose pieces of seaweed. Flying, it happens, but it’s expensive. Where does all the magic go? We become cynical and hardened. We don’t stop to smell the flowers and to marvel at the beautiful world we live in. Everything has to be fast, grown-up, scientific and chic. 

Reba with Rabbit cast
Reba (standing, left) with members of the cast of The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings.

I get tired of this. This fast moving society we live in. I want to stop and smell the flowers, to marvel at a rock, see the good in a bumble bee! But it’s hard to unravel yourself. To get off of Faceook and sit outside, to stop thinking about your future and be awed by the present. 

I’ve found someone who helps me do this, a grown-up none the less. Her name is Reba Short and she is the director of the Children’s Theater of Maine. When I heard about acting in your shows, I was thrilled. It’s hard to find theaters that do straight shows, non-musicals, for teens in Maine. I remember thinking “I’m so excited; this will look great on college applications! And, I’m getting experience for an acting career!” That IS true and it’s one of the perks of the theater. But when I participated in my first show, Beauty and the Beast, I realized that that wasn’t what I valued the most. I began to marvel again. That childlike wonder came back. I found myself questioning if an angsty prince-turned-Beast really DID live in the woods. Were those mermaids I saw smiling at me? Wait, are those troll tracks?! Smell these flowers! That was the most rewarding thing you could have ever given me Reba.

I remember one time in Beauty and the Beast. Gabe was having a hard time doing the characterization during a scene. You decided that we had to sing our lines out to each other. The combination was one of Phantom of the Opera meets Beauty and the Beast meets a couple of bad singers. It was one of the most outrageous things I’ve ever done and I thank you for it!

Emma in a Youth Voices Onstage workshop at East End Community School
Emma at East End Community School leading a group discussion as part of the Youth Voices Onstage project.

In the Youth Voices project that we’ve been doing it’s such a pleasure to work with you. I know that you’ve taught us all to question our actions. When we go into schools the little kids adore you. They hang on to your every word, mesmerized. I know you’re probably going to say that you’re the one that is supposed to be thanking us, because we’re really the people who do the acting. You’re wrong. Without you this project would have not been possible. You’ve not only helped these little kids to do acts of kindness, you’ve helped us. You’ve made it so that we could all heal from wounds that were inflicted upon us by mean things people have done or said. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that working with you on this has been such a pleasure and honor.

We are so blessed to have you in our lives. You’ve taught us to see the fortress in a boulder, the smiling mermaids in the waves, to stop and smell the flowers. To cherish life and everything in it. To slow down and be awed. To find magic in the world. And most important of all to imagine and hope.

Interview with “Rabbit” Cast Members

I asked some key questions to 3 very interesting young actors in The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings, Bianca Brown, Erica Glidden and Alysha Alling.

Here’s what the girls had to say:
1.  Why do you do theatre at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine?
BIANCA: Because of all the nice people, and the fun shows that we put on.
ERICA: Ever since I saw my sister in shows I thought it would be really fun, and it is!
ALYSHA: I do theatre at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, because I have friends who do it with me, it’s pretty close to my house, and it’s just a BIG BUCKET OF FUN! Haha!

Bianca Brown is 16 years old. Bianca is playing Mrs. Skunk. This is Bianca’s fifth show with us; she’s also a puppeteer for our Kids on the Block puppet show.

2.  Who in the cast do you admire, why?

BIANCA: Caroline (Duck #2), because I have noticed that she has made the most progress throughout the rehearsal process, and she is really nice to everyone.
ERICA: I personally admire Michela (Little Rabbit) because she is a really great actor and makes everything fun. Also she seems like she is always living life to its fullest.
ALYSHA: I’d have to say I admire Bianca the most, because she always comes to rehearsal happy, even if she is sick with a sore throat (like she was this week). Also because when we’re backstage and some people are talking she’s not afraid to go up to them and tell them to stop.

3.  What makes The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings special?

BIANCA: The story, it has a good message for kids.
ERICA: I think The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings is a good way to tell people to love themselves.
ALYSHA: I think what makes The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings a special play is how we all work together. Also how we complement each other while acting, like how me and Michaela (Little Rabbit) make each other’s scenes better with our animal actions/moves.

Erica Glidden is 9 years old. Erica is playing Duck #3. This is Erica’s first show with us.

4.  What was your favorite moment in the rehearsal process?

BIANCA: Being told to talk in a southern accent.
ERICA: I liked all the games like gesture circle and freeze.
ALYSHA: This is a tough one… I guess my favorite moment in the rehearsal process was watching all of our characters develop.

5.  What’s your favorite moment in the play?

BIANCA: Sheena’s song. It’s so cute.
ERICA: My favorite part is when Mama Rabbit doesn’t know who Little Rabbit is because it is a really big part in the story.
ALYSHA: My favorite moment in the play is when me and Bianca have our first scene together and we act like spies! It’s REALLY fun!

Alysha Alling is 12 years old. Alysha is playing Mr. Squirrel. This is Alysha’s seventh show with us.

6.  What do you want the audience to leave the theatre thinking about / take away with them?

BIANCA: That they should be who they are, not any one else. Also, that skunks are nice animals, and don’t always spray people.
ERICA: That you should just be yourself.
ALYSHA: I want the audience to leave thinking… “That was a great play!” or “What a good life lesson for my kids!” Or just thinking they wanna come for the next play.

Come see Bianca, Erica, Alysha, and the rest of the cast perform in the final weekend of The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings! Click here to buy tickets!

Auditions for our next play, Pinocchio, are on June 5 from 10am-12pm. If you want to have fun, make new friends and learn a lot about theatre, visit our website for more information on how to prepare for the audition!

Sneak Peek at The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings

Michela is always in character!

After stage managing The Emperor’s New Clothes this past winter, I was really excited to sit in on Tuesday’s rehearsal of The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings. It was a chance to see some of the actors I knew and meet some new faces! When I came in, Michela and Sheena (who played Empress Sophie and Theodore in The Emperor’s New Clothes, respectively) were in the middle of a scene. I sat down and watched them in action. It was amazing to see them play characters that are so different from the ones they played in The Emperor’s New Clothes. Michela was hopping around the stage playing Little Rabbit and Sheena was quite a sassy and funny Real Girl (and she has such a beautiful singing voice!)

"You can see the food. You can taste it!"

As the rehearsal went on, I saw the actors transform into a forest of animals. Everyone had their own way of becoming their character that I knew right away what animal they were portraying. But I know from experience that it’s always tricky staying in character, especially when you have so many things to think about. Every moment you’re onstage you have to think: if I were a duck, what would I be doing right now? But that’s where Reba comes in! She let the actors explore their characters, but if they get stuck she always is there is give them guidance, suggestions or real-world examples of how a character might react to something. Little Rabbit’s new red wings were related to a changed hairdo, eyebrow waxing and a squid backpack—all examples given by other cast members!

Reba asked the cast members to act like scared squirrels. Pretty convincing!

I’ve been doing theatre since I was 10 years old, so I know how exciting the rehearsal process can be. This is the time for actors to make bold choices, become friends with their fellow cast members and learn news things about themselves and their character. The cast of The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings has a few weeks of rehearsal left and from what I saw they are doing a fantastic job. I can’t wait to see the final product!

Tickets are on sale now! To buy tickets visit our website, call 828-1234 x231 or stop by the front desk!  The play runs Thursday-Sunday from April 22 – May 2. Thursday and Friday performances are at 4pm and Saturday and Sunday performances are at 1pm & 4pm.

Sneak Peek at The Emperor’s New Clothes!

When a new show is coming up in our Dress Up Theatre, I try not to let myself see too much of the rehearsals – I love to experience the show for the first time with a live audience full of families. However, I couldn’t resist sneaking down to the lower level for a quick peek at what the cast of The Emperor’s New Clothes has been up to.

The cast was bursting with energy, and I caught a couple of very funny scenes featuring the sneaky tricksters, the Emperor, the Empress and their court.

They were trying out their costumes for the first time, so I got a hint of what the production will be like, but the real magic will happen when lighting, sets, music, and audience are all in place. I’m looking forward to March 4th!

The Emperor and Empress address their court
The tricksters, Anna and Karl, come up with a plan to swindle their way into some money
Emperor Frederik and Empress Sophie
Stefan, the Imperial Chief of Staff, and Hans, the Imperial Speechwriter

Tickets for this show and Cinderella are on sale now! Call the front desk at 828-1234 x231 or click here to get your seats!

Meet Allison, a Theatre volunteer!

I love working with enthusiastic volunteers and I want to share one of them with you. Allison acted and volunteered with the Children’s Theatre of Maine for years and I am so lucky that she has continued her volunteer work here at the Museum & Theatre. The kids love her and she is so helpful during rehearsals! Here is what Allison had to say about her experiences volunteering with the theatre program:

Allison outside the Dress-Up Theatre

“My first memories of the Children’s Theatre of Maine are from when it was still located on Marginal Way, where I participated in several of the summer musical-intensive camps. It was an opportunity to gain theatre experience outside of my school, work with new kids, and make new friends. I had so much fun undergoing our intense rehearsal schedules; we had the chance to spend every day singing and dancing for 8 hours! By high school, I was completely immersed in our drama program and am currently majoring in Theatre and Art History at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. I became re-immersed into the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine as I was searching for summer jobs and keeping my fingers crossed for something within my field of study. Continue reading “Meet Allison, a Theatre volunteer!”