by Kirby LindsayThrough Friday, December 24th (Christmas Eve), Stone Soup Theatre presents their annual staging of A Child’s Christmas In Wales, adapted from the poem by Dylan Thomas. This special holiday performance combines in the cast the talents of five adult actors with seven child actors (aged 7 – 12 years old) all under the direction of Jenny McMurry.
“Never work with animals or children,” W.C. Fields was credited with giving this advice. In Child’s Christmas, according to Arwen Morgan, the children provide the main focus of the story. It means the adults do get upstaged, even when the kids take on adult roles. As Julia Beers, who plays the Mother, pointed out, “a grumpy uncle has never been cuter.”
Morgan performs the role of Aunt Nelly, and provides musical transitions for the show on her fiddle. When not acting, at Stone Soup, the 5th Avenue, and in a solo show, she teaches theater, improvisation and musical theater. Last summer she also taught at Stone Soup camps – spending a week with groups of 5 – 13 year olds rehearsing and performing a play, while learning the art of theater.
Yet, “I have never been in a show with kids before,” she admitted during final dress rehearsal for Child’s Christmas, “I was worried a few days ago, but I’m feeling better now.” Her youthful co-stars, she’s praised, have come along well after an admittedly choppy start.
“I’ve learned through teaching,” Morgan explained that “kids can really, really surprise you.” Their openness and lack of bias, she explained, makes them appreciative of what theater is, and what it can be.
When One Must Work With Children
Still, working with the little scene-stealers can be hard. As Elizabeth Richmond, who performs multiple roles in Child’s Christmas including Mrs. Prothero and Aunt Hannah, bluntly stated, “even when they screw up, they are cuter than us.” Children bring spontaneity, Richmond observed. For the children, Morgan pointed out, the show, “is new for them each time,” which “adds a new kind of energy.” Beers explained, that for the entire cast, “the show will be new every night.”
This can benefit Morgan, who remains on-stage during the majority of the performance even though she has very few lines. She admitted that, “the biggest challenge has been to be there and present the whole time.” As she has wrangling duties to keep the children focused, and an obligation to “keep the kids in the present,” they also help her remain aware.
Additionally, she relies on the training she received at Cornish, in kinesthetic awareness. This approach to acting draws on body awareness, and she works with the kids using these techniques, and observations of their physical place on the stage. “I’ve been incredibly impressed with watching the growth of the kids in this show,” Morgan said. “The big thing is getting them to focus,” she explained, “and understand why they want to focus.”
So, this holiday season could be a great time to join this tradition – at Fremont’s only professional theater. Tickets, and show times, can be accessed through the Stone Soup Theatre website or at Brown Paper Tickets. Go to support the kids, support live theater, and support the adult actors, even if they aren’t quite as cute!
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.