Teen ac­tors per­form play at Berks li­braries

Yocum In­sti­tute for Arts Ed­u­ca­tion teens per­formed ‘The Clumsy Dragon’ for Sum­mer Read­ing Pro­gram

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - FRONT PAGE - By Kolleen Long

This sum­mer, on hot morn­ings and af­ter­noons, chil­dren and their care­givers gath­ered at Berks County li­braries for a Sum­mer Read­ing Pro­gram per­for­mance of “The Clumsy Dragon” pre­sented by the Teen Theater En­sem­ble of the Yocum In­sti­tute for Arts Ed­u­ca­tion.

Spon­sored by the Friends of Berks County Li­braries and the Yocum In­sti­tute, the Teen Theater En­sem­ble toured li­braries across Berks County. Among their sum­mer per­for­mances, the young ac­tors made ap­pear­ances at Kutztown Com­mu­nity Li­brary and First Re­formed

United Church of Christ in Ham­burg for Ham­burg Pub­lic Li­brary.

A young wo­man in a flo­ral cos­tume strummed on a gui­tar as a nar­ra­tor in a sparkly blue gown be­gan the per­for­mance, in­tro­duc­ing a boy wiz­ard named Alz­abar and his de­sire to own a dragon (de­spite his nag­ging mother’s op­po­si­tion). The play fol­lowed the ad­ven­tures of Alz­abar as he grows up and ob­tains a talk­ing dragon, Mirabel. The two de­velop a friend­ship de­spite the dragon’s ten­dency to knock things over.

The per­for­mance fea­tured sim­ple stag­ing, col­or­ful cos­tum­ing, silly songs and com­i­cal di­a­logue. The ac­tors also snuck in some ed­u­ca­tional points – the nar­ra­tor and lead ac­tor would ban­ter back and forth while ex­plain­ing lit­er­ary de­vises such as pro­logue, an­tag­o­nist and set changes. And the thread run­ning through the play was the theme of ac­cep­tance and friend­ship.

“I wouldn’t change a sin­gle thing about you,” Alz­abar as­sures Mirabel at a tough mo­ment, “even if I could. You’re my dragon, you’re the best.”

Au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion was also en­cour­aged. The ac­tors would ask the chil­dren for in­put, in­cor­po­rat­ing their called-out an­swers into the di­a­logue. At one point, the nar­ra­tor en­listed an adult and sev­eral chil­dren to take part in a dragon pa­rade, a cru­cial part of the plot.

Au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion is a high­light for per­former Emily Rother­mel, who was nar­ra­tor (among other roles) in The Clumsy Dragon.

“It’s so much fun to see all of the lit­tle kids,” she said. “The show changes ev­ery time we’ve per­formed it.”

Jor­dan Eck, who played Alz­abar, agreed.

“It’s in­ter­ac­tive theater and we have to think on our feet,” he said.

Join­ing Rother­mel and Eck in the Aug. 2 per­for­mance in Ham­burg were Liza Gallen, who wrote and played the songs for the play, and Ben­jamin Houck, who played Mirabel the Dragon. The four were part of a ro­tat­ing cast of six, di­rected by Joel Gori. Bev­erly Houck, artis­tic di­rec­tor for the Yocum In­sti­tute, ex­plains that each teen per­former au­di­tions to be part of the Teen Theater En­sem­ble.

In ad­di­tion to the kid­cen­tric sum­mer li­brary piece, the group does improv shows, street fes­ti­vals and a teen sui­cide pre­ven­tion piece.

“We do ev­ery­thing from park pro­grams to so­cial jus­tice pieces to fam­ily events,” Houck said.

For de­tails on per­for­mances or how to au­di­tion for the teen en­sem­ble, call Houck at the Yocum In­sti­tute: 610-376-1576.

The Yocum In­sti­tute for Arts Ed­u­ca­tion, 1100 Bel­mont Ave, Wy­omiss­ing, has op­tions in theater, dance, vis­ual arts and mu­sic. For de­tails on fall classes, visit www.in­sti­tute-of-arts.org.


The cast of “The Clumsy Dragon” in­cluded (from left) Jor­dan Eck, Emily Rother­mel, Ben­jamin Houck and Liza Gallen. The per­for­mance by the Teen Theater En­sem­ble of the Yocum In­sti­tute toured li­braries in Berks County this sum­mer.

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