Actors bloom at Arboretum: The finale

Published 8:59 pm Saturday, November 1, 2008

It’s hard to imagine a visit to Crosby Arboretum without being inspired to be creative in some way. I can visualize poems, plays and novels being penned under the canvas of all the foliage. I can almost hear an opera singer bouncing notes off the towering pines and oaks. The entire site is a painter’s canvas and a nature-loving photographer could take photos without end of any number of subjects.

Perhaps it was all this inspiration lying in wait that motivated seven actors last Saturday to create the world premiere production of “The Dragon Who Loved Flowers” for friends and family. It was a dramatic conclusion for the month-long drama workshop, “Children’s Theater in the Piney Woods.”

The show and preceding workshop, all led by Gypsy Grannie Marilyn Meilleur was a huge success for both the Arboretum and its players. The stands underneath the Pinecote Pavilion were filled with loving supporters of the young thespians.

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“Uh oh, there’s too many people here,” said Keagan Tresch, one of the show’s stars, as the nerves started to kick in. Her family showed up in droves to support her first theatrical endeavor.

Meilleur got the show started with a brief announcement and a fun and unexpected monologue.

“The grandparents and parents have been totally wonderful in this,” Meilleur began. She thanked them for all the time they each spent helping the children learn their roles, designing their costumes and for all the hours spent shuttling the children back and forth to the Arboretum on Saturdays.

She also soothed the cast members’ jitters by explaining to the audience that these were all first time actors and that they might do the show “on book” (with scripts in hand). They had roughly about three hours, not three months to prepare for the performance she said.

“They are all very brave,” she continued. For example, Madeline Hays, at the very last minute earned three additional flower characters.

As audience members continued to arrive throughout the introduction, the splendor of the Arboretum as backdrop was not lost on them. “This is beautiful back here,” was heard in the mumblings of the guests before the show.

Meilleur than did her surprise monologue. Her limitless energy was infectious throughout — not just the show but the entire four week workshop. She had the audience with her all the way. The monologue, also written by Meilleur, was a wholesome appetizer for the main course.

The children were wonderful in their roles during the show. Each added something special to the performance.

Henry Loughnane, as Charlemagne The Dragon, added a layer of warmth and empathy to the character. He cleverly conveyed the message of the show, which was largely his character’s cross to bear.

Hays, originally cast as Black-Eyed Susan, assumed almost all of the other “talking flowers.” For taking on such a huge responsibility in the eleventh hour, she was flawless. She had all of her lines memorized and gracefully manipulated her costume to differentiate the different parts. She was a charming addition to the delightful production.

Earl Lingo, orchestrated the role of Dandy Dandelion. He looked so at home in his flower garb that it was hard to distinguish him from the trees and flowers of the scenery. His portrayal of Dandy was dapper. He was committed to his character.

Tresch, was sassafras incarnate as the sassy Darcy Dragonette. She is a natural comedienne who kept the audience engaged and easily transported them along on the show’s journey. She completely blossomed throughout the course of the workshop and it was thrilling to see her performance.

Two professional actors joined the cast to help play roles that needed a more mature touch. Cody and Demi Lafleur lent their many talents to the production as the play’s Mother and Father Dragons. They were each winning in their respective roles.

The show ended with a cute little wedding scene. Tresch and Laughnane couldn’t help but break character by laughing at themselves as they held hands, AND A BABY DRAGON! The audience shared the moment with them.

In the finales, finale, all the players got a chance to grab a loved one out of the audience to bring them up for a huge dance scene. The whole production was made more poignant as we watched father and daughter, grandchild and grandmother, sister and brother, mother and child, etc., all dancing, laughing and sharing smiles.

While it may be curtains for the October session of “Children’s Theater in the Piney Woods,” and this fresh crop of budding stars, the memories created and lessons learned will undoubtedly live on in their hearts and minds. It has been a pleasure to witness the transformations of these young people.

… and blackout!