BWW Preview: CTC Summertime Production Leads to September Empowerment of Audiences through Four World Premieres

BWW Preview: CTC Summertime Production Leads to September Empowerment of Audiences through Four World Premieres
Ayssette Munoz, "I Come From Arizona"
Photo Credit: Lee Stanford

Summertime leads into September and the upcoming Minneapolis Children's Theatre Company's (CTC) fall 2018-2019 season. The company's first world premiere, which played this July and August, titled "The Best Summer Ever" featured nationally renowned playwright and storyteller Kevin Kling. In this first CTC World Premiere production, Kling remembers life changing moments from his boyhood in Minnesota, which he narrates, and completely charms the audience.

Collaborating with Kling, Associate Music Director and Resident Composer Victor Zapanc provides a plethora of melodic accompaniment through percussion and guitar. One charming selection includes a Norwegian folk song telling a tale about fishing. Using interactive audience participation in this musical number, the entire performance involves these moments where on stage theater and audience unite to celebrate Zupanc's songs or Kling's stories, which he does through his alter ego Maurice. While enjoying the production, the audience might remember their own extraordinary summer experiences that often change lives right in front of their eyes. Moments simply recalling a grandparent's favorite story or a friend's funny prank, possibly a brother's humiliating camping experience.

In this particular production, Kevin Kling's young Maurice recalls how his sister transformed in the blink of a summer's night from completely ignoring boys to holding their hands. Maurice also discovers the power in planting Norwegian bluebell seeds, courtesy of his Grandfather, who saved them from his homeland. The young boy also relates how his mother, an attorney, "could have run the country, but she chose to run the family" in a fitting tribute to hectic summer schedules.

A gigantic screen forms the backdrop of the stage, which helps the audience navigate Maurice's stories, complete with clever drawings for the audience to enjoy. In one segment, Maurice retells a Norwegian fairytale, which in the end, includes making a wish on a star-Kling reminiscences places meant to be retrieved from the audience's past, too, and how an individual grows over the years, whether very young, of less young. Perhaps only one moment from this stellar production metamorphoses to significance when an individual realizes the life changing effects of baseball, ices, s'mores around a campfire and stories, family stories, often taken for granted when first heard. Family legends and stories also grow in importance upon reflection in this delightful world premiers to energize audiences members to rejuvenate, transform and then act on their memories to make the present more meaningful.

Which is exactly the premise CTC plans for the remainder of its season, which opens this weekend. Senior Communication Director Melissa Ferlaak recently shared a few thoughts in an interview this summer when she expounded on the upcoming season and how the remaining three world premiers punctuate the company's promise to expand Theater for Young Audiences (TYA) while simultaneously empowering their audiences.

Beginning this weekend, the Midwest premiere of the Newbury Award Wining book "Last Stop on Market Street" features a joint co-commission between Chicago Children's Theatre and the Minneapolis troupe. The exceptional music from the dynamic songwriting team Lamont Dozier and Paris Ray Dozier, separately and together have won numerous awards for their collaborations with other composers instilling their Motown mojo into the musical. This famous duo incorporates a musical heritage including classic, jazz and rock and roll melodies touched with hip hop, a varietal smorgasbord of musical genres to mesmerize audiences. In this poignant musical, the main character CJ eventually reaches the 'last stop on the bus,' where Ferlaak says, "this experience teaches her how to see people for who they are and not what they present on the outside."

Following the timely TYA production, the subsequent World Premiere, "I Come From Arizona,' tackles the delicate issue of immigration from various perspectives. In this play, the daughter needs to begin school in Arizona while her father has been sent back to Mexico--Her mother wisely advises her daughter when asked where she's from, out of fear they might be deported as well, to only say: I come from Arizona.

The December holidays, actually only a few months away, return a 25 year seasonal CTC favorite when the company presents "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." As the only theater to have copyrights to the iconic Dr. Seuss tales, Ferlaak believes: "The wonder of Dr. Seuss showcases how a community embraces and opens their hearts to each other, alongside the themes of exploring commonality and consumerism."

The young of age and heart will find the 2019 New Year bringing the English toured production "Mr. Poppers Penguins" to the Minneapolis stage. The beloved children's classic revives extraordinary puppetry to bring these penguins to life while the travails of Mr.Popper highlight how anyone can make their dreams come true. Following the classic childhood tale, little people, especially those in early childhood, can enjoy a return of "The Biggest Little House in the Forest." In this engaging animal tale, the main character learns inviting those in need into your home, whatever the size, creates a special community where each member can thrive.

In CTC's final world premiere of the 2018-2019 season, only five adult actors working as a cohesive team create the compelling story of "The Hobbit" in March. Greg Banks from the United Kingdom adapted J.R.R. Tolkien's famous stories in this adventure play to fascinate audiences of all ages, expected and to be experienced as a "not to be missed" production.

For the finale of this spectacular season, CTC brings Broadway's "Mathilda The Musical" to their stage. The story features the full length version from the production's 2010 debut in London, and then New York's in 2013. Roald Dahl's tale of a fierce young girl escaping her so called "wicked" experiences, and often hose adults, in her life will energize young audiences. The last book Dahl wrote and published in 1968 won the United Kingdom Children's Book Award the same year and empowers little women, and all children, to be who they are under any circumstances. The first class musical will indeed bring a taste of Broadway to young audiences in the Twin Cities area.

Throughout this coming year and a four-world premiere season, adults and children alike will be challenged to find their personal inspiration. Inspired to transform their own worlds, however big or small, into a place of harmony and peace where community thrives. Ferlaak believes under the two decade leadership of Artistic Director Peter C. Brosius CTC strives to create these empowering experiences with each selection in every season, encouraging their audiences to make a difference in the lives of those they meet and serve when they leave the theater. Ferlaak then reiterates, to all her audiences who attend performances this coming year: "If people aren't being empowered to do something after seeing a production, then we [the company] aren't doing our job...Theater empowers audiences to chart new territories and explore new ideas and dream big dreams."

Children's Theatre Company presents their 2018-2019 four world premiere season at 2400 3rd Avenue S, Minneapolis. For information or tickets, please call 612.874.0400 or visit www.childrenstheatre.org.

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From This Author Peggy Sue Dunigan

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