Triboro Youth Theatre
Painting the Fence: A Community/Theatre Partnership
Let's say you have a successful children's theater, one that has been thriving in your community for over fifteen years, a vibrant theater where children of all ages come in droves to be in your shows. Some even stay on to work as production staff. Maybe you started out doing one or two shows a year, but now you're up to nine or ten a year. You have no problem filling up the elementary school auditorium (which the town gives you rent-free for rehearsals) for your shows. So what do you do when a town committee comes to you and asks you to participate in some way in the town's "community read" program?
You say "yes", of course!
That's what happened to Triboro Youth Theatre this year. The town committee was for Attleboro's One Adventure, One Book, One Community or 1ABC program. The book they had chosen for their whole community to read was Mark Twain's classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. And what did Vivian Humphrey, Artistic Director and President of TYT, say? She said, "Let's do the musical!"
And why not? Triboro has been producing musicals for 16 years and what better way to connect with an audience than through musical theater? The fact that their audience will have already read, discussed, and experienced the story through all of the town-wide events will only enhance their enjoyment of the show. "Musicals do a great job of bringing the audience and the actors into the emotion of the moment," explains Humphrey. "And when the audience already knows the story, as with Tom Sawyer, it'll add to their understanding of and connection with Twain's world."
So, at the end of this month, 59 middle schoolers from over a dozen different towns will bring Twain's small town story to the stage. With music by Don Schlitz and a book by Ken Ludwig, all of Twain's well-loved characters come to life: Tom, Huck, Becky, Aunt Polly, and even Injun Joe.
Humphrey says, "The kids love this show for many reasons—not the least of which is all the stabbing and blood. They are loving the opportunity to play adults and teenagers with all the problems these characters have. We’re even experimenting with a Missouri twang and are learning about life in the 1840’s. Many of the actors are long-time members of TYT. Their experience shows on stage and during rehearsals. All in all—from the rehearsals, to working with the town, to our experiences with 1ABC—it has been a rewarding experience for staff and cast alike."
Among the many activities planned for the town (including a "Paint the Fence Family Day", "Aunt Polly's Letterboxing" and "Sharing Childhood Memories with Mark Twain"), the cast of Tom Sawyer will even be performing at Attleboro's Got Talent night, singing songs from the musical. David Renoni, who started as a TYT actor and member of the pit in high school and is now Triboro's Associate Artistic Director and the Music Director for this production, says that "the music in Tom Sawyer really captures the time period and the setting. It has a down-home country feeling, a fully American sound from the Mississippi Basin."
Triboro Youth Theatre's production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer will be performing on Friday, October 28th, Saturday, October 29th, and Sunday, October 30th, 2011, at the Thacher School, 199 James Street in Attleboro, MA. For tickets, contact triboroyouththeatre.org.