Entertainment

Mother Tested Kid Approved… Sprites by Pollyanna Theatre Company by Mother Daughter Duo CiCi Barone and Victoria Patroni

This  Weekend Austin Entertainment Weekly Writer Cici Barone started a new section for us. The Mommy and Me theatre reviews. Along with reviewing other types of theatre for us she is focusing some of her talents at reviewing children’s theatre with the help of her 9 year old daughter Victoria (also know to Cici as Mini-Me).

So here is the Start of our Mother Tested, Kid Approved Theatre Reviews.

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Mother Tested.. Sprites by Pollyanna  Theatre Company.

By: Cici Barone

The Pollyanna Theatre Company has done it again! Their production of “Sprites,” an original work by playwright Holly Hepp-Galvan is both visually and mentally stimulating for children and adults alike.

From the minute you walk in, you are transported to a colorful world of imagination with the help of the colorful set designed by Steven Myers and Chelsea Hockaday.  It is a vibrant representation of the front yard of a small home.  They use a syke to project a tree, but the way the syke is integrated into the show later on is truly wonderful.

In this modern day of ours, where it’s hard to imagine life without technology we are inundated more and more with tragic stories of cyber bullying. This thoughtful piece explains the perils of your words in a beautiful way that allows children to think, and to recognize that sticks and stones can break your bones, but words and crumble a person’s spirit.

Under the skilled hand of director Judy Matetzschk-Campbell, the story of a ten year old girl named Wren (played by Chelsea Hockaday) comes to life with the help of what can only be described as a beautiful collaboration with Ballet Austin and the Butler Fellowship Program.

Wren is a young girl, new to town and her school.  She struggles with feeling like an outsider and coping with the early death of her father. Hockaday does a fantastic job embodying an insecure, intelligent young girl, trying to stay true to herself while yearning to be accepted.

Wren has few friends and the only girls she has to play with are Justine (played by Bethany Harbaugh) and class bully Marley (played by Julie Linnard). Both take part in teasing Wren for her asthma, though Marely takes the lead in most of Wren’s torment. Linnard’s performance of a bratty, mean kid is so effective it made me as a parent want to reach across the audience and give her a good spanking.

As Wren is often left alone, she discovers she has her words to help keep her company. When she  writes a poem about the small tree her mother bought her to plant, her words come to life in the form of three sprites, Blue, Green, and Yellow (Abbey Smith, Leanna Markos, and Lisa Larson of Ballet Austin Butler Fellowship).  The more her poem takes form the more the three Sprites dance around stage making Wren’s words a vivid ballet. The choreography by Nick Kepley, varied for each story or poem Wren recites and was beautiful, funny, exciting, and though provoking. The three Sprites are fun to watch, their facial reactions are hilarious when needed, but sensitive and hurt when the script called for it.

When class bully, Marley spread unfortunate rumors that Justine has been saying mean things at school about Wren.  Sadly Wren is persuaded to use her words in a terrible way by Marley; she types a terrible poem about Justine and posts it on the internet.  The syke is again utilized in a brilliant way to show not only the original post, but the comments other students make.  It’s a wonderful illustration of how cyberbullying starts, and becomes a chain of events and a downward spiral of negativity. The choreography during this particular portion of the show gave me chills.  The Ensemble dancers joined the three Sprite on stage in a blend of ballet and modern dance that became a physical embodiment of pain, anger, hurt, and revenge.

When Justine returns and discovers the post about her Bethany Harbough’s facial expressions and body language to show the pain of a ten year old inside, was brilliant.  I wanted to give her a hug to make her feel better.  In the end Wren is able to make amends with Justine by writing a story together.  The Sprites and the entire ensemble come out for one final, triumphant dance together and it is again beautifully done.

Another notable performance was by Maya Pruett who played Wren’s mother.  This character is like so many busy, single mom’s these days. So constantly distracted by her cell phone, tablet, or laptop Wren feels like she can’t talk to her mother about her troubles. To me, this was also a wonderful lesson to the parents in the audience to put the screens down and spend quality time with your children.

This production was truly a wonderful show to watch. It brought to life tough topics that school aged children are faced with every day, but made it so visually appealing that every child in the audience was glued to the stage watching and waiting. The lessons learned by the children and the adults in the audience are lessons that are typically the hardest and often some of the more boring lessons to sit through.  Pollyanna made a life lesson beautiful and with the help of Ballet Austin created a Dance Drama that I feel every elementary aged child should see.

Mini Me_Sprites Cast

“Sprites Are Wren’s Words Coming To Life.” Review:  Sprites by Pollyanna Theatre Company

By: Victoria Patroni

 A girl named Wren learns that words can hurt you or they can help you. But before she learns it, she makes a mark and hurts her friend with HER words. The main characters are Wren and her Sprites. My favorite part was when Wren tells a story and her Sprites act and dance it out, because I like the Sprites. My least favorite part was when Wren yelled at her Sprites, and they left her alone . I just don’t like it because I don’t like people yelling at other people. My favorite costumes were the Sprites costumes, they were very colorful and I liked the words on them. The Blue Sprite’s sleeve had the words “sleeve” on it, and I thought that was funny. My favorite characters were the Sprites because I liked how they danced.

Good-bye, I hope you get to see the show some time!

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