Friday, January 23, 2015

At the library: Featured program

Burbank Public Library's Teen Services department started a readers' theater program back in 2010 when we invited actor/director David Purdham from Theatre Encino to work with our teens and incorporate a few of them into his group's production of The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, an Arthur Conan Doyle mystery. Since then, we have produced six more readers' theater programs (featuring works by Louisa May Alcott and O. Henry, William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, Oscar Wilde, and Douglas Adams!), some with David and some without, but all of them featuring or exclusively starring Burbank teens.

This month we are presenting the latest in the readers' theater series, and we appear, with the advent of such television shows as Once Upon A Time and Grim, such movies as Into the Woods, and such books as Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, to be right on trend with "Not So Happily Ever After," a collection of edgy and humorous retold fairy tales from the pens of Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman, and Ron Koertge. As the opening lines from our first piece (by Dahl) say,

          I guess you think you know this story.
          You don't. The real one's much more gory.
          The phony one, the one you know,
          Was cooked up years and years ago,
          And made to sound all soft and sappy
          Just to keep the children happy.

One of Quentin Blake's delightful
illustrations for Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes.
We will be presenting the readers' theater performance on Thursday, January 29, at 7:00 p.m., at the Buena Vista branch in the auditorium. As an added fillip to this program, when we contacted author Ron Koertge to ask his permission to adapt and use material from his poetry collection, Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses, he said that he would be delighted to attend the program to see his pieces performed. So we will have one of the authors on hand, and after the program you may, if you like, purchase his book and have it personally autographed! (We will also have copies of Revolting Rhymes, by Roald Dahl, and Instructions, by Neil Gaiman, available for purchase, but alas, no autographs.)

If you're not familiar with the concept of readers' theater, here is an explanation: Readers’ theater is a style of theater in which the actors do not memorize their lines; they sit and stand together on a stage and read from scripts. The actors use vocal expression to help the audience understand the story, rather than employing visual storytelling cues such as sets, costumes, and blocking. Nonetheless, it is definitely a theatrical experience!

We are so pleased by the continuity of this program--that we have teens in Burbank, year after year, who want to participate in something that showcases and encourages reading in our community. This year we have several teens in our cast of eleven who have appeared in three or four of our other productions, including two who have just started college; we have a couple of high-schoolers who got their feet wet this past summer in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and wanted to do more; and we have four brand-new participants, including two brave (and charming) sixth-graders. We hope you will join us to see what they make of this darkly funny material!

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