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Dive Into a Queer and Quacky Retelling of THE UGLY DUCKLING at Allentown Public Theatre


Dive Into a Queer and Quacky Retelling of THE UGLY DUCKLING at Allentown Public Theatre

On July 20, 2018, Allentown Public Theatre (APT) will present to the public the world premiere of this original children's play, loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's classic story The Ugly Duckling. Developed in partnership with Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, APT's Ugly Duckling explores themes of gender identity, self-expression and acceptance, as told through the metaphor of colors.

The story begins on a normal day in Quackertown Duckling School, where ducks wearing pink and ducks wearing blue must follow separate, regimented mores. The delicate social order of the classroom is upended when a little duckling wearing purple arrives and dares to challenge the rules.

The project began a year ago when APT's ensemble members decided they wanted to create a family-friendly play in which LGBT issues and children's storytelling could come together. "We wanted to create a space where it felt totally normal, totally appropriate, and totally positive for kids and parents to interact with the topic of gender identity," says director Anna Russell. "And I think we succeeded."

Playful and upbeat, the show takes audiences to the colorful world on the other side of the mirror, where reflections have personalities of their own. Full of silly dances and ducky puns, The Ugly Duckling promises to be fun for audiences of all ages.

"The play itself is educational, but in a fun way. It's easy to keep up with it," says actor Zander Douglas, who plays Eggsavier, leader of the blue ducks. Zinnia Santiago (who plays the tell-tale Mirror Witch) agrees, reflecting, "I appreciate that we can light-heartedly talk about gender identity, and that it is a comfortable conversation rather than a political one."

The show, however, ultimately reaches beyond the topic of gender identity to deliver the universal themes of friendship and courage. "The message is really about being brave enough to be yourself - and to accept others for who they are too," says playwright Willow Reichard-Flynn. "I think that's a message that anyone - no matter who they are - can relate to."

Two youth from Bradbury-Sullivan's Project Silk program join an ensemble of APT actors to bring this unique story to life, with children from APT's summer theatre workshops making cameo appearances throughout. "It's unlike anything I've ever done before," says actor Shyan Ortiz, one of the youth performing in the show. "Most productions, you sit down with people you don't know and read a script you don't know; this is different." Both Shyan and actor Zander Douglas participated in a series of workshops at Bradbury-Sullivan this past spring to help brainstorm and create the world of the play. Now they both star in the story they helped invent.

Performances will be at St. Luke's Lutheran Church (417 N 7th St., Allentown, PA 18102) on July 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 & 29. Friday shows will be held at 6:00pm, with Saturday and Sunday shows at 2:00pm. Admission is free for children ages 12 and under, and by donation for adults.

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