Editor's note: Kevin visited Arts YOUniverse on September 7, 2011, for the first rehearsal of Bunnicula, where the castmembers met each other and their director for the first time. It was definitely a dark and stormy night; the Susquehanna River was rapidly approaching flood stage that evening.
Raindrops sent ripples through the puddled streets as I made my way into the towering old church, ducking as I passed under an Arts Youniverse sign. The rain thundered along the roof, as it had been for days. It showed no signs of relenting.
After wandering around the immense building for a few minutes, I found my destination; the table reading (or first run through) of the script of Bunnicula, a play being put on here by several young members of our community.
As I entered the room, the group of kids sitting in a circle got quiet and looked up, apparently curious to see what I was doing here. I spotted an adult and told her that I was here from King’s to sit in on the reading. “Take a seat,” she said, smiling and pointing to a chair. She started to speak, and attention immediately shifted in her direction. She suggested that we all go around the room and introduce ourselves. One young man, aged thirteen, announced that he writes novels and short stories, while another young lady stated that she sings in chorus and plays the clarinet. Eventually, Dr. O’Connor began to speak about how King’s will be working with Arts Youniverse this year to help raise funds and awareness, and hopefully spur on the growing arts community here in Wilkes-Barre. The two boys next to me whispered excitedly to each other as she spoke (about the future of art, I’m sure).
After introductions the actual reading began. The little girl playing Chester, the family cat, spoke with more inflection and enthusiasm than I would be able to muster, while two slightly older children played the adults of the house, managing even at this early stage of production to sound decidedly parental. Everyone read their lines from photocopied scripts, placing their pages on the floor at their feet as the reading progressed. Soon there are little piles of paper everywhere, adding to the hectic but fun atmosphere.
After about an hour and a half, the director stopped and asked if everyone would like to keep going. Several parents that had been sitting in the background looked concerned. We learned that Market Street Bridge was scheduled to close because of the rain. Waters were rising, apparently at a rate far more serious than many of us had suspected. Several parents took their leave, but a few of us made the decision to trudge on and weather the storm.
Some time later, the read-through was finished and I had an opportunity to talk to the director, Ms. Angel Berlane. Her passion for theater was obvious as she told me that this was many of the kids’ first show, that now after the initial reading the real work began. Involved with theater since the age of eight, she seemed as excited about the play as the kids. After our discussion, I said goodbye and made my way outside, back into the drizzling rain.
The following morning the Wyoming Valley was evacuated; there was a real danger that the river was going to overreach the levee system, flooding the area. I took the trip back to my home in the Poconos, worrying for the citizens of Wilkes-Barre, my fellow students, and Arts Youniverse.
I returned to Wilkes-Barre on a sunny Monday morning several days later; the college was ok, my fellow students seemed to be holding up, and Arts Youniverse had been untouched by the rising waters.