Actors bloom at Arboretum: Part 3

Published 4:51 pm Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Children participating in “Children’s Theater in the Piney Woods” at Crosby Arboretum got a taste of what the “dress rehearsal” process in the theatre is all about for week three of the month-long drama workshop.

For those that brought their costumes, it was an eye-opening experience to have to move and dance in them for the first time. To cha cha is one thing, to cha cha in full dragon regalia complete with tail, is quite another, so they learned.

“Gypsy Grannie” Marilyn Meilleur worked with the children on timing, character, entrances, exits and blocking to get them ready for the big show next Saturday, “The Dragon Who Loved Flowers.” It was important for them to remember the stage pictures. “Never turn your back to the audience,” Meilleur lectured.

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There was also a cast change to note. Losing an actor means that Demi Lefleur of Carriere, who was previously set to play Narrator, will now play Mother. Her previous acting experience should lend a great deal of depth to the role.

Fortunately, the play will have an improv type atmosphere, according to Meilleur, which should make it easier on the nerves of the performers who have had very little rehearsal time to get ready. Meilleur’s larger than life gregariousness is a huge asset to the learning process of young thespians. It is not hard to see how she is able to crack down some of the tougher exteriors to get to the heart of the actor inside each child. Her silliness lets them know it’s okay to let down that guard on occasion. She will also offer a “surprise” deviation from the script during the production next weekend.

This week her eccentricities also translated to her outfit. The outlandish “gypsy” gear, will be perfect to help set the tone of “The Dragon Who Loved Flowers,” — a script Meilleur wrote herself. “It gets crazier as we go along,” she joked about her attire.

As for the students, it’s hard to imagine that the children that started the workshop that first Saturday in October, are the same children that stood before me last Saturday. While they still have their “shy” period at the beginning of each session, the length of time for the weekly occurrence where some of them disappear under their mom or grandmothers’ skirts to hide before re-emerging as “ACTORS” seems to get shorter each week — or, maybe it’s a warm up technique! Either way, they are hilarious. They all take direction extremely well and continue to be eager to learn.

I was surprised at how they all knew their lines and came into this week’s rehearsal with a solid grasp of their characters. I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been. It has been a long time, but I vaguely recall what having a fresh, sponge-like brain is all about. As it stands, my own is currently saturated and dripping… but I digress.

The children will get a chance for a final dress rehearsal before they go in front of a live audience of friends and family at 2 p.m., next Saturday, October 25 on the Pinecote Pavilion at the Arboretum.

The final performance is free and open to the public. Any and all are invited. As a special treat, after the show, Meilleur will be selling autographed copies of her book “Wilderness Glow.”

I left the workshop early, because like family and friends, I wish to be surprised at the workshop’s “dramatic conclusion” next week. Stay tuned!