Peggy Sue Dunigan
Reviewed

The Elephant Child and Other African Tales

By - Mar 10th, 2009 12:21 pm
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One of the only remaining auditoriums in the Milwaukee Public School System resounded with children’s voices last week. In Ivory Hall at Lincoln School for the Arts, Milwaukee Youth Theatre presented The Elephant Child and Other African Tales. Through the tradition of folklore, writer and editor Frederick KD Diggins reformatted stories from Rudyard Kiplings’s Just So Stories together with additional African legends to create this appealing children’s production.

The ninety-minute performance included five folktales incorporating a beautiful borrowed set from Ko-Thi Dance Company that fills the stage with a massive tree hung with fiber sways resembling the jungle. This provided the perfect backdrop for the tropical printed skirts and knotted headpieces worn by the LCA African Dance Company. Skillfully choreographed by Shirley Gilbert, these dancers established a rhythmic and cultural link to the tales as well as serving to separate each scene from its predecessor.

Accompanied by narration from an older actor, each tale revealed a moral or explained intriguing phenomena of the natural world, such as how the elephant acquired such a long nose (adapted from Rudyard Kipling). The actors spanned several age and experience ranges, portraying the tiniest mouse to a fierce crocodile in colorful and clever attire from Kim’s Costumes Limited. Several performers debuted on stage for the first time, while others demonstrated additional stage presence including Deonata Griffin and Daphne Cain. The overriding effect was entertainment. All children will appreciate the participation encouraged in the Swahili fable, The Three Tasks, which asked them to choose from several endings for each feat the Prince needed to complete in fulfilling a promise to his father.

It’s disappointing MYT remains without sufficient microphones for all their actors to use because in the large theater the smallest voices lose their projection, taking away from the performance as a whole as well as robbing the performers of deserved recognition. Yet whether providing acting experience, technical skills or for pure enjoyment, this “theater by children, for children” inspires school programs that will develop future participants and supporters of the arts. This is clearly seen at the Lincoln MPS center where the timely vision of MYT continues on May 21 and 22 at 7:00 p.m. in the LCA Studio Theatre 208 with their next production Winnie The Pooh.

Complete schedule and tickets for Milwaukee Youth Theatre performances are available online at Footlights.

Categories: Theater

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