Thunder River Theatre introduces children’s programming
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
April 29-30, 4 p.m.; May 13-14, 1 and 4 p.m.
Thunder River Theatre Company, 67 Promenade, Carbondale
Tickets: $25; $15 ages 5-14
The curtains rose on a children’s theater production of “The Little Match Girl.” As the show began, a 6-year-old boy saw his future on stage.
That Minneapolis production sparked Corey Simpson’s lifelong love of arts. Now, as executive artistic director of Thunder River Theatre Company, Simpson hopes to do the same for children in and around Garfield County.
“Because I know how meaningful that’s been for me, I feel so lucky to have an opportunity to finally pay it back,” he said.
The company will debut its Theater for Young Audiences program Saturday with “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.” Simpson has introduced several new programs to the company in his nine months as executive artist director, including improv comedy and cabaret theater. It’s an effort to draw new audiences to the theater, he said, and focusing on children is one more way to invite people in.
“It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. The most important part is the story. Tell the story,” said director Wendy Moore. “The characters who are telling that story need to be recognizable and understandable. It’s probably more heightened in children’s theater; they’ve got to be crystal-clear characters.”
Moore has been involved in all manner of theatrical productions, and she was quick to research productions suitable for TRTC’s children’s theater debut. “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse,” an adaptation of the Kevin Henkes book, was her top choice.
“I fell in love with this piece because you have a young female leading character who is this incredibly unique, confident, one-of-a-kind human being,” Simpson said.
Lilly is the sort of character he hopes to see on stage, and Simpson said she’s a role model for girls and boys alike.
And though this is a production targeted at children, Simpson and Moore both said parents will find lots to laugh at, as well.
“Everybody can identify with it, including the parents,” Moore said.
Most people can relate to Lilly’s challenges: sharing her parents’ attention with a sibling, deciding what to become when she grows up, getting into trouble at school.
The cast will invite children to engage with them during the show, and kids will be able to sit close to the stage. In the future, Simpson hopes to build off of that by offering more programming that will involve kids.
Children can learn from art just as adults can, Moore said.
“You want to know what’s going on in the world? Go to a show,” she said. “If you want to know about family dynamics, go see ‘Lilly.’ I think kids, though shorter versions of ourselves, have a lot of questions about life. Is this normal? Is this natural? Do I belong or am I odd? Theater can help explain to kids.”
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Allie Reyes said being able to see people who look and sound like you onscreen hits differently when you’re not used to having that kind of representation.