Posts tagged #snuggery

Remounting the show Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

By Lilly Moore

One of my favorite musicals of all time is Mamma Mia. What can I say, there’s just something about the bouncy 70’s euro pop stylings of Abba, performed on the backdrop of a beautiful Greek island that really just gets me. I’ve never actually seen it live (to my great displeasure), but I’ve seen the movie and every version I can find across the internet. What’s always fascinated me about the show is how it takes the pop sound of a generation and transforms it into what sounds like a classic musical. The group identity of Abba isn’t really present in the show, yet their music ties the plot together perfectly. Somehow, the reinvigoration of an already well-loved work of art creates a new piece, which is then make anew again with every production produced.

Eric D. Pasto-Crosby & Ryan Michael Friedman

Eric D. Pasto-Crosby & Ryan Michael Friedman

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, written and directed by Ernie Nolan, is one of Nashville Children’s Theatre’s ongoing productions for the very young. It features Eric D. Pasto-Crosby and Ryan Michael Friedman as the play’s two characters, Glimmer and Sparkle. The two actors are familiar with their jobs, having performed their roles last fall. When asked about the ease or difficulty of remounting productions which they’ve already performed in, Ryan and Eric, though in similar positions, have very different perspectives. “It was a super easy and fast process getting back into the show and character” says Ryan. “Returning to the script allows more freedom in the small moments and allows me to explore each moment more.” He also attributes his own success to his talented scene partner and hard-working teammates, in establishing fluidity and ease in the production.

Eric, though equally confidant feels more conflicted at the ease of entering a remount. “I always try and find what made the show and character interesting the first time around and then use that as a jumping off place to make this production just as good” he says. “I think as a remount you have to try and make this one better or very least slightly different. Mostly for those who saw it last time to get something new from the experience. The script hasn’t changed so that won’t be new, but little ways Ryan and I interact can be crisper, cleaner, and more playful.”

A lot of what makes a remount differentiate itself from other productions has to do with intention. As Eric pointed out, the script hasn’t changed. As words often lend the way to action, stage business can also be similar between productions. It is the intentions which actors and directors set within themselves that motivates individual shows.

Eric D. Pasto-Crosby as Glimmer

Eric D. Pasto-Crosby as Glimmer

With Twinkle, Twinkle, being a show made for a very young audience, the actors both found their intentions in communicating with their young audience members. Eric, who has a young son of his own, sets his intentions in honesty while portraying his character. “Kids can read through lies” says Eric. “They can tell when characters aren’t being ‘genuine.’  My personal goal is anytime I approach a production is ‘Will those I love see my growth as a performer in this show or that I learned something from past mistakes or moments that didn’t land?’ You must always be attempting to be better than your last performance.” Similarly, Eric found the most success in communicating with his young audience truthfully, as he would any other person only with simpler language. “Much of my professional experience in theatre has been performing for children. I found the most success in being truly honest with the character's intentions and never downplaying.”

Chad Parsons, the stage manager of the production, separates himself from his fellow teammates in that this is his first time interacting with Twinkle, Twinkle. His entry into the show was “a quick turnaround process,” he says, with his main challenge being inserting himself into an already produced production. “The most difficult thing for me was finding the rhythm of the show, this is something that is usually discovered in the full rehearsal process.  With this remount, we only rehearsed for four days. Ernie [the creator and director] was a joy to work with in this process, as he was open to the suggestions and slight changes that would help the show re-adjust to the space at Lipscomb.” Chad also commented on the interactive nature of the show as a means for keeping the material fresh. “They [Eric and Ryan] are both so involved with the children who are watching the show, they listen to what the children in the audience have to say and actually pay attention to them and respond to them; in doing this they are so automatically authentic.”

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, like Mamma Mia, is a reinvigoration of the familiar. As the musical does for adults, Twinkle, Twinkle gets children on their feet dancing, moving, and interacting with the theatrical world in front of them. Be it the first time or the twenty-fourth time, the show presents a refreshing tale of a little star and the starkeepers who look after it from which little ones can learn. 

Lasting a Lifetime: The Effects of Theatre for the Very Young

By Lilly Moore

Even as a young adult, my first memory of theatre is very vivid in my imagination. I was around three years old. I sat in my preschool classroom at a dressing table, pretending to be someone else; a princess preparing for her day. I applied the fake plastic lipstick, touched up my cheeks with a bare blush brush, and adjusted my tiara in the mirror.

Now, this is obviously not theatre in the traditional sense. I was not sat down in a dark auditorium to watch players perform scenes with language that I couldn’t yet fully understand. It was a theatrical experience nonetheless, though. Engaging with my surroundings under imaginary circumstances, willingly suspending my own disbelief about my character. This is what theatre for the very young, like NCT’s Snuggery seeks to do; to “blur the line between actor and audience,” as the London children’s theater Oily Cart attempts to do with each production.

Actors Kelsie Craig and Eric D. Pasto-Crosby in a workshop production of TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR.

Actors Kelsie Craig and Eric D. Pasto-Crosby in a workshop production of TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR.

Gerd Taube, in her essay “Aesthetic peculiarities of the ‘Theatre for Early Years,’” raises a poignant question about the 0-3-year-old audience of children’s theaters. “Are they ‘human beings’ or ‘human becoming’s’?” Stripped of basic comprehension skills which adults often take for granted, skills like language and sensory-motor capabilities, it can seem redundant to push art towards the less-developed mind. However, children of ages 2-4 months demonstrate of the earliest periods of synaptic growth and development, and by age 3, the brain is twice as active as that of a developed adult and 80% of synaptic connections are already made. A flux of environmental stimuli is thus necessary in defining an infant’s brain.

“Baby-theatre,” a term which refers to theatre created for ages 0-3, utilizes a structured format of creating to implement performance into a learning platform from which the very young can benefit. For years, theatre companies and practitioners have sought to define the means by which this tactic is achieved. Taube, in her essay, notes several aesthetic necessities in imagining proper baby theatre. Commonalities throughout research on the topic arise in these defined necessities.

Participation is key. In using subverted forms, such as call and response or physical actions which guide the movement of the plot, infants are intrinsically taught new skills of communication. As the developing infant may also lack verbal skills, they must learn from different kind of language, from a physical language. The very young interact with the world from a sensory-motor basis, using their senses to engage with their surroundings rather than on a linguistic basis. Creating an atmosphere from which the children can learn and allowing for them to physically interact with whatever story is being told in necessary in ensure that the players communicate with the same language as the audience.

Another aesthetic necessity of theatre for the very young is a simple plot. Now simple does not mean easy. It can often be very difficult for writers and practitioners to break down seemingly simple situations into layman’s terms. Similarly, every audience member sees a different story. When watching the Three Little Pigs, one child may question why the wolf is trying to blow the house down in the first place while another may be wondering where the little piggy’s parents are. While it’s impossible for playwrights to be able to predict and adequately serve every audience member’s perspective, a simple story line is necessary in conveying meaning to each child who interacts with the story.

Actor Ryan Michael Friedman teaching the audience what cues to expect for TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR.

Actor Ryan Michael Friedman teaching the audience what cues to expect for TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR.

Finally, communication is necessary in creating baby theatre. One of the main purposes of theatre for the very young is education, in establishing a discourse from which the young audience can learn, it is education through art. The players, the writers, the designers, the directors must be communicating with their audience. Theatre, to the very young, doesn’t just help build skills and entertain. It creates something with emotional longevity, something that has the ability to change a child forever.

Carlos Herans, a Spanish theatre artist, describes in his essay “Why Theatre for Early Years?” one of his earliest memories. An old countrywoman speaks to a prince and a panel on her house falls to the ground. The prince pushes it back up and gives the woman money to help fix her house. Herans states that he remembers nothing else from this scene, but the intense fascination he felt from the magic which the scene produced. It was not the action or the scene itself that created such a long-lasting memory, but what it made Herans feel. This what theatre for the very young strives to create for children, memories and feelings that will last them a lifetime.

Posted on May 25, 2019 .