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18 January 2008

Drama Group Stages Interactive Performance for Area Children

Kelly Summers measures audience member Alex Duff, 5, during a performance of "The Emperor's New Clothes" Thursday at Carver Community Center. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star

By Todd South
Star Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Tiny toddlers with bright eyes and big smiles bounced around their chairs as colorful actors retold a classic tale.

Rags-to-Riches Theatre for young audiences entertained about 50 children ages 3 to 5 Thursday morning at the Carver Community Center.

During a 40-minute recounting of the classic tale, "The Emperor's New Clothes," actors ran into the audience and cued the children to respond by clapping, whooping and making funny noises at key points in the play.

Whenever the word "emperor" was uttered, the children quickly formed make-believe trumpets and sounded out a few notes announcing his presence.

With video games, television and Internet entertainment gobbling up so much of children's attention, the show aims to be interactive and keep kids engaged, said Lou Peters, one of Rags-to-Riches' founders.

The three-actor traveling troupe is based in Durham, N.C. and tours the Southeast and the East Coast performing classic and original plays for children.

But the group mixes in a few jokes that the adults can understand too, said Peters.

Brenda Manning, Carver Library and Center manager, said she'd been contacted by Eric Traynor, head of children's theatre at Jacksonville State University.

The play was a treat for the children and the center, Manning said. A handful of senior citizens across the hall followed the noise and found seats in the gymnasium to watch the show.

Onstage, a local actor, Kelly Summers of Jacksonville, boogied to various musical beats as the emperor's personal clothing assistant.

Wrapped in a pink feather boa, floppy hat and baggy pants Summers had the children laughing, and a few dancing in the aisles, as she and fellow JSU graduate Coty Cockrell chased Peters around the room.

Summers and Cockrell both said having such a small group of actors performing in the traveling show offers its own challenges and rewards.

The small group is able to perform in places that might not ever see a play, such as libraries and community centers, Summers said.

With just three actors the group prepares their costumes, sets the stage, and cleans up afterward.

The group has performed at area elementary schools throughout the week and has two scheduled performances at JSU's Ernest Stone Performing Arts Center in Jacksonville. The showtimes are 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $5. For more information, call 782-5648.

About Todd South

Todd South covers Oxford, Lincoln and Munford for The Star. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia.

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