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Playing to a Younger Crowd

The Children’s Theatre of Albright College is introducing area youth to the magic of the theatre and providing Albright students with invaluable hands-on experience producing shows.


By Kelsey Rudy '16

Fully immersed in Albright College's theatre department, Tyler Ryan ’14 and John Tallarida ’15 saw a void they wanted to fill.

While the department offered a wide variety of classes and clubs – from the award-winning Domino Players to two improv groups – children’s theatre was just not part of the repertoire.

“We have all kinds of groups but nothing for community outreach,” says Ryan.

And, adds Tallarida: “The Reading area schools don’t have funding for shows. We wanted to bring theatre to them.”  

The two thespians are doing just that. With a passion for children’s theatre, the duo embarked on an Albright Creative Research Experience (ACRE) in January 2014, with Matt Fotis, Ph.D., assistant professor of theatre, as their adviser.

This meeting of the minds led to the creation of the Children’s Theatre of Albright College in spring 2014. A branch of the Albright College Thespian Society, the new group seeks to produce quality theatre for young audiences in Berks County.

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Albright students perform in the Children's Theatre production of Gustav, the Goose Who Wouldn't Fly

“We believe that if you can introduce children to the magic of theatre, they will be inspired to be more creative and develop an appreciation for the arts,” says Fotis.

With a mere $100 in funding and an enthusiastic cast, the Children's Theatre performed their first show, Tale of Two Tables, at the Muhlenberg Community Library last spring. It was written by Ryan, now an alumnus, who describes it as his own spin on the King Arthur legend.

“The first production was primarily student-run and it was kind of rough,” acknowledges Tallarida, an actor who is taking a behind-the-scenes role for this endeavor. He serves as the group's artistic director, choosing the shows and directors and keeping productions on schedule.

The group's second production, Gustav, the Goose Who Wouldn’t Fly, was written by Fotis and performed at Albright's Center for the Arts Mary Miss Amphitheatre in October.

Before the show, the cast came out to make crafts with the audience, which Tallarida hopes will be a characteristic of future productions. The children were warned to watch out for hunters during the show so they constructed bushes to hide behind.

“There was a smile on everyone’s face,” says Tallarida.

Apart from bringing the joys of live performance to area youth, the Children’s Theatre also provides a new forum for Albright students to perform, write, direct and produce shows.

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Fotis says it's important for his students to gain experience working with younger audiences, especially since many theatre graduates will work with this demographic in the early phase of their careers. The principles of theatre are the same regardless of the age of the audience, but it's essential to set the right tone.

“It’s treating (the audience) with a different level of maturity and deciding how complex issues can be,” says Fotis.

Like any new endeavor, the Children’s Theatre is learning while it grows. “The challenge,” says Fotis, “is that the audience isn’t here at Albright College.”

To draw the children to performances, the group advertises in preschools and churches, works with area libraries, and contacts local press.

Ideally the organizers would love to see the theatre group tour, taking performances to children in elementary schools, hospitals and libraries.  

“We were adamant about getting into the community,” says Ryan.

The Children's Theatre spring production is called A Mother's Day Spectacular, directed by Connor Feeney '16.

In the meantime, the group will continue to lay the groundwork for what they hope will result in a touring company.

And, as Ryan says, “Fun needs to be the number one priority.”


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