Monday, October 31, 2011

Isabel Silva | Bunnicula: A Post-Production Reflection

Growing up with three siblings, I was already familiar with Bunnicula’s veggie-sucking antics long before our Writing for the Arts class began back in August. I had heard my siblings rant and rave about how thrilled they were after reading each book in the series and about how they wanted to read about the adventures of Chester and Howard over and over again. Already a Bunnicula fan, I was excited when it was announced that we would be putting on a production of Bunnicula. Until then, I was not aware that the book had been adapted for the stage so I eagerly printed out my copy of the script to see what this play would be like.

I have to admit that upon first reading, I was skeptical. It bothered me a little that such a beloved book was going to be changed and twisted and put to music. My emotions were similar to those that most of us experience when a favorite book has just been made into a movie; we cringe and sigh, knowing that the movie could not possibly, in 90 short minutes, do justice to the on-paper story. With these concerns always in the back of mind, I continued my work for the production with the consolation that at least this would be something for the children to enjoy and that they would hopefully be encouraged to read the book once they had fallen in love with the theatre production.

This past Sunday afternoon I headed over to ArtsYOUniverse, excited that everything had finally come together but nervous to see what the play would do to my childhood memory of the vegetarian vampire with which I was so familiar. When I walked into the theatre, it was almost surreal to see all the different things about which we had been talking about for months, actually coming to life before my eyes. I saw the puppet, the programs, the Halloween-themed snacks and favors; everything that we had planned was being fulfilled at ArtsYOUniverse that weekend.

As the cast took to the stage for their second and final performance, all my doubts began to disappear. The characters were so engaging and so loveable that I could not help but be absorbed by all the vampire-bunny fun. I enjoyed the changes in the stage adaptation and I loved the endearing quality of the performances by the children. Although most of the actors were new to theatre, the enthusiasm and commitment that they brought to the show was infectious. I feel now that having Bunnicula produced for children’s theatre actually brings new life to the story. It adds an element of childhood innocence and inexperience that makes the beloved children’s book that much more memorable.

The play was funny and the kids were absolutely adorable. As I watched the performance, it made me happy to think about these kids and how influential a project like this is to their lives. By putting on this play, ArtsYOUniverse gave local children an opportunity to create their own art and share it with others. This, coupled with the fundraising efforts to benefit the library, really made this entire project worthwhile. I am so glad to have been able to be a part of it all and, although the project is over, I have hope that this is only the beginning of what will later be a tradition of children’s theatre and art brought to the community by ArtsYOUniverse.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jessica Kush: Watching a Friend Leap off the Page and Come Alive



Bunnicula is a mystery story written by James and Deborah Howe that tells the story of a rabbit whose nighttime snacking leads his fellow Monroe family pets to believe he has vampire-like powers. The book has been a children’s bestseller since 1979 and inspired James Howe to write several more sequels such as The Celery Stalks at Midnight and Howliday Inn.

Bunnicula’s popularity and off beat title character inspired playwright Jon Klein to create a stage production of the book. “I like characters that are sort of outsiders,” Klein states to the Washington Post when asked about his adaptation and comparing it to the 1948 film Abott and Costello Meets Frankenstein.  Despite having ample source material to work with, Klein adapted Bunnicula as a musical and enlisted composer Chris Jefferies to create the score for the lyrics he wrote. 


On his decision, Klein tells Gazette.Net “I wanted to be true to the spirit and tone of the book. And then I wanted to make sure that the music would be fun and representative.” The songs, which include an upbeat number about household pets and a pity party melody about an outcast Chester, certainly add fun and charm to the play. Klein’s adaptations seem to have been a good decision because since Bunnicula’s 1996 premiere at the Seattle Children’s Theatre, the musical has been produced more than 100 times and performed by several top theatres including Imagination Stage

However, Klein feels the success of the play lies with his ingeniousness to introduce Bunnicula as a puppet rather than an actor in a rabbit suit. During a production rehearsal he attended at the Seattle Children’s Theatre, Klein spoke to the Washington Post stating "The rabbit is the draw. ...I warned all the actors, if the rabbit does something, nobody is going to look at you.” The puppet helps build the mystery of the play and of Bunnicula who can appear cute or scary depending on the scene. While a pet, Bunnicula is not like Harold and Chester who are more human than animal-like in nature. Bunnicula never speaks and the audience never knows what is going on in his head or what he thinks. He is mysterious. The ending concludes with the audience never knowing for sure whether Bunnicula is a vampire or not. So until then, guard your vegetables!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Isabel Silva: Bunnicula Arrives!

It’s almost show time and earlier last week the star of the show finally arrived! Bunnicula, or his puppet that is, made it just in time for final rehearsals as the cast of Bunnicula prepares to go on stage this weekend. 

The character of this loveable vegetable juice-sucking bunny presented quite a challenge in creating a stage-adaptation of the classic children’s book. In the story, Bunnicula, although he is a rabbit, is very active on stage. He hops around, bares his fangs, wiggles his nose, sleeps, and sucks the juice out of all the vegetables in the Monroe house. 

All this action however, becomes difficult to translate on-stage when you do not have an actor playing the part. Noreen O’Connor, whose son “playing” Bunnicula, took upon herself the complicated (but fun!) task of finding a puppet that could bring this vampire bunny to life.

She found an artist on etsy.com named Paula Corbett who designs and sells puppets  through her a company fittingly called Bad Bunny Puppets. Impressed by her work, Noreen contacted Paula and they both began to brainstorm ideas for this bunny project. Noreen requested an “unassuming pet bunny look that turns vampire for the vegetable-sucking scenes” and requested that the bunny look as though he were wearing a cape. 

The trickiest part was finding a way to create fangs that could appear and disappear just as they do in the book. Paula devised an ingenious method for this; she created holes in the bunny’s face where the fangs would go and then created a glove that had the fangs attached so that the puppeteer could use his fingers to expose and retract the juice-sucking fangs. She also made it so that one of the puppeteer’s fingers could be used to wiggle Bunnicula’s nose. These elements, combined with the cape-like design of the bunny’s fur came together to form a Bunnicula puppet that looks like it hopped straight out of the book itself.

Paula said that researching Bunnicula for this project was “fun” and that she was “excited to see how [Bunnicula] was going to turn out! And so were the rest of the cast and crew working to put this production together. When the puppet was finally delivered, everyone was thrilled with the creativity and likeness of this one-of-a-kind puppet.

 Thanks to the ingenuity of Noreen and Paula, the Bunnicula production will have its vampire star tomorrow night when the lights go down, curtains go up, and Bunnicula takes to the stage.

Angel Berlane: Bunnicula Tech Week

Hello everyone! My name is Angel and I am currently directing Bunnicula! As many as of you know, the show is only few days away and Bunnicula has let me step away from the theatre to let you know what is going on in the Monroe house! 

Tech week is in full bloom and things are starting to change. Set pieces have been moved in, props have entered the stage and tomorrow…” A WHITE ZUCCHINI!!!”

The Monroe family have been adapting very well to their “new” home. Harriet and Chester are crawling and jumping around more than ever.  The mice have started to creep the halls and soon stalking lettuce will stalk our dreams! 

With costumes being brought in the mix and media joining us from time to time…these kids don’t miss a beat. They have continued to push through as they enjoy this experience.

Bunnicula would have to agree with me that with having the show at Arts YOUniverse and King’s college on our side, we are creating something special here.  

We would truly like to thank all who are making this possible for two great causes, the Arts YOUniverse Foundation and the restoration of the West Pittson Library. 

We hope you all can make it to the Monroe’s house to catch a glimpse of what is to come of the Vampire Bunny.  Watch as Chester and Harriet take on Bunnicula and shake things up a bit in the house! This show will surely be delightful. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Angela Warner: "An Art Manifesto"

ART  /√§RT/ 
Noun:
A stimulant for the senses that in one way or another induces emotion, impacts society and helps define a generation, and generations to come. 
Music, painting/drawing, acting, theater, dance, writing, design.
Observed, created, bought, experienced.
Inevitable and important.
Omnipresent. 

What is art? The definition above is my homegrown creation (no offense to Merriam-Webster). You may not agree with it but since the essence of art lies in the beholder, that’s okay too. One thing is certain however: WE NEED ART!

No matter the demographic, art has and will continue to impact life as we know it. Art is consumed every single second of every single day. Sometimes art smacks you square in the face and you don’t realize it. SMACK! It just happened. Did you feel it? 

This program and its pieces are forms of artistic expression by a group of young scholars studying Professional Writing at King’s College. Along with those who work at Arts YOUniverse, these students have been working diligently to promote the production you are about to enjoy. In addition to the play, the creative collaboration has developed a means to encourage artistic enrichment beyond the performances of Bunnicula

In order to encourage a continuation of art within the community of Wilkes-Barre, this collaboration of artists and students is constructing a foundation in order to preserve the very essence of art: The Arts YOUniverse Foundation. 

Through its creators, The Foundation is dedicated to providing artistic programming and experiences of all sorts to everyone in the community. Its mission is embodied in the above definition; allowing art to be omnipresent in the community for generations. What does this mean for you? Art classes, dance lessons, more plays and music lessons are available for the entire family! We hope to further encourage students, families and artist alike with our efforts.

Art will impact you. You will take it in, consume it. Let it digest in your cranium; Form an opinion or brush it off, and go about your day. Either way art does something to you. It makes you think beyond the scope of words on paper. But why is all of this important? Why as humans do we need outlets to express this impact life has on us beyond the basic senses?

Without art life is mundane. Art is the glue that binds us to other humans’ experiences. It is the medium between reality and fiction, good and bad, right and wrong, left and right, up and down, black and white. Art is temporal yet timeless, old yet young, rich yet poor, high yet low. Art is inevitable. As long as we as beings have emotions, cognition and imagination the world will always have art. Art allows us to analyze life in an innovative way. Art allows us to truly live, whether it be vicariously through the art itself, or by relation to the art. Art is always around, never stagnant. Without art we cannot relate to one another. Simply put, WE NEED ART! 


Monday, October 10, 2011

Jessica Kush: "Director Angel Berlane: 'If You Push Hard Enough, You Can Get Anywhere'"

Angel Berlane directs Bunnicula
If You Push Hard Enough, You Can Get Anywhere

“If you push hard enough, you can get anywhere.” These are the words that really stick with me as I leave class after our interview with Bunnicula director Angel Berlane. She says this in regards to her own experience as a child actress where her first ever audition was for the role of Annie on Broadway. Angel made it to the top thirty but failed to sing loud enough in her final audition and lost the part. While disheartened, she came away with the notion that anything is possible as long as you try.


Fitting words from someone whose zest for theater is infectious. When she speaks her hands move animatedly and her smile is engaging. Angel has been in several children’s theater productions, graduated from East Stroudsburg with a degree in theater, and has begun teaching children's acting classes at Arts YOUniverse where she is a drama and voice coach. She is truly excited about the collaboration between Arts YOUniverse and King’s College and hopes to raise awareness about the arts and children’s theater in the community.

While Bunnicula is not Angel’s directing debut, she is still learning and takes her own experiences into consideration when directing the children. Her goal is to make them as comfortable as possible. This is especially true during the audition phase. Angel wants the children to understand that they do not have to do it perfectly the first time but to just do their best even if it took a few tries.

Angel is patient and encouraging when directing them. She truly enjoys watching them grow into their characters and appreciate their own talent.  Her goal is not only to put on a successful show but to help guide the children towards the next level of acting. She feels that it is important to be there for them and to let them know that the stage is a safe zone. More than anything, Angel wants the children to grow into themselves and to enjoy the art of acting. She wants to see them succeed and gain confidence from their success. Perhaps even some of them will audition for Broadway someday where she can pass on a little advice from a lesson she once learned: “If you push hard enough, you can get anywhere.”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

BUNNICULA THEATER POSTER

Press Release: "Bunnicula" at Arts YOUniverse: "Come laugh and be bitten by the theatre bug--er, vampire"


     
Media Contacts:

Kathleen Godwin
Arts YOUniverse
570-970-2787
arts@epix.net

Noreen O’Connor
Dept. of English, King’s College
570-991-5914


For immediate Release
October 1, 2011

“BUNNICULA”
At Arts YOUniverse
“Come laugh and be bitten by the theatre bug -- er, vampire”
October 22-23, 2011

Wilkes-Barre, PA (October 1, 2011) Arts YOUniverse and King’s College present Bunnicula, a charming musical mystery play that is sure to enchant both children and parents alike through its loveable, goofy characters and clever plot. This story of a vegetarian vampire bunny is especially fitting for the Halloween season because of its playful, kid-friendly take on today’s most popular monster.

Bunnicula will be performed at Arts YOUniverse on Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, October 23, 2011, at 2:00 pm. The Sunday production will be followed by a meet-the-cast reception, featuring a Halloween costume contest. The play is appropriate for all ages. Tickets are $5, and will be sold at the door. Tickets may be reserved in advance--call 570-970-2787 or e-mail arts@epix.net.

Proceeds from this production will benefit children in our community in two ways. One portion will go to the West Pittston Library to help its children’s collections recover from the devastating effects of this month’s flood. A second portion will be used to establish a children’s theatre program within the Arts YOUniverse Foundation, a non-profit that promotes and provides access to the arts in Wilkes-Barre.
First published in 1979, James and Deborah Howe’s Bunnicula is a modern classic for young readers that has spawned several sequels including Howliday Inn, and The Celery Stalks at Midnight. Adapted for the stage by Jon Klein, with music by Chris Jeffries, the howlingly funny mystery is centered on the Monroe family’s pets--Harriet the dog, Chester the cat, and family’s newest pet, Bunnicula, a rabbit they found at a movie theater showing “Dracula.” The family soon finds that all of the vegetables in their refrigerator have turned white because someone has drained them of their juice, and the vampire hunt begins. The Washington Post in 2010 positively described a prior production as “brainy,” “delightful,” and “a celebration of reading.” The Seattle Southside, also affirmatively stated, “[Bunnicula] is a sweet, funny tale that everyone in the family can enjoy together.

Bunnicula’s director, Angel Berlane, is also a children’s drama teacher at Arts YOUniverse and a professional actor. Berlane has purposely taken on the challenge of creating the play with a number of young community actors in its cast. Says Berlane, “I am certain that you will enjoy this show no matter what age you are and that you will go away feeling entertained by this young cast who have been working so hard to create this clever, witty, funny show.”

The production stars pet sleuths Harriet the dog, played by Brenda Wenner, and her partner Chester the cat, played by 9-year-old Nicole Orlando. The title character will be played by a custom-designed bunny puppet with retractable vampire teeth and black-and-white markings reminiscent of a vampire’s cape. 11-year-old Daniel Hancuff will be the puppeteer. The play also features Kevin Lazarowicz as Mr. Monroe, Tonya Hill as Mrs. Monroe, and real-life sisters Mia and Cades Linder as Tabby and Patty, the Monroe children. Ensemble cast includes Gianna Dickson and Adit Mansury

To support this production, college students from the King’s College English/Professional Writing program have partnered with the Arts YOUniverse Foundation through a course called “Writing for the Arts.” The King’s students—Isabel Silva, James Donnelly, Angela Warner, Sarah Scinto, Kevin Conroy, and Jessica Kush—have been integral to the play’s entire pre-production process and have chosen as a class to give proceeds from the production back to the community.

King’s students are helping support Arts YOUniverse Foundation, a non-profit part of Arts YOUniverse, to create a program that promotes children’s theatre and art in the local community. After the severe flooding in our area this September, the students also decided to make the production of Bunnicula a fundraising event to benefit the West Pittston Library.

“I am truly inspired by the commitment, imagination, and civic-mindedness of my students,” says King’s English professor Noreen O’Connor. “They are learning and also practicing all aspects of professional writing to support this project—writing a documentary blog (bunnicula-kings-artsyouniverse.blogspot.com), fundraising letters, grant research, press releases, and the play’s program. It has become a very meaningful project. Bill Bolan, of King’s Shoval Center, and I worked on creating a course with real opportunities for service learning with ‘Writing for the Arts,’” says O’Connor. “The Bunnicula production is really turning out to involve the entire community, more completely than I could have hoped. Working with Kathleen Godwin has been wonderful, because she is so open to trying new ideas with my students. It has been such a valuable experience for everyone so far.”

Founded by Kathleen Godwin, Arts YOUniverse is dedicated to promoting the arts through productions, classes, and space rentals for local artists, bringing all the arts to one location making them accessible to anyone who is interested. Now, Godwin is delighted to be continuing her efforts to expand the community involvement by working with King’s College to put on the production of this delightful children’s play.

The secret to success,” says Godwin, “was knowing who to call! In the case of Bunnicula, it was Noreen O'Connor and her students in the Professional Writing Program at King's College (my alma mater). With the energy and commitment of her students, a great script, fun music, and the fine young actors at Arts YOUniverse, we're sure to entertain.  And this time, there's another bonus.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit the West Pittston Library Restoration Fund.  So come see, come laugh and be bitten by the theatre bug - er, vampire, (did I say that?)”

Bunnicula
·       Based on the book by Debra and James Howe
·       Adapted by Jon Klein; Music and lyrics by Chris Jeffries
·       Directed by Angel Berlane
·       Saturday, October 22 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, October 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm
·       Tickets: $5 at the door.
·       Tickets may also be reserved in advance by calling 570-970-2787 or by sending an e-mail to arts@epix.net.
·       For all ages
·       Meet-the-cast reception with Halloween costume contest after the Sunday performance
·       Bunnicula Project Blog: http://bunnicula-kings-artsyouniverse.blogspot.com/

Arts YOUniverse
·       Located At: 47 N. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
·       For Information: 570-970-2787 or arts@epix.net.


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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Angela Warner: "Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining"

"Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining"

King's College in fall 
September marks a month of change. Leaves begin to turn from summer greens to autumn oranges and reds. Days become shorter. Heat begins to rush out of the air and a cool, crisp wind takes its place as if the world’s refrigerator door was left open. Pumpkins become ripe, ready for picking and carving. Students enter and exit classrooms once again. Halloween is approaching. Autumn is here. Yes, September's changes have been especially ripe with opportunities.

Personally, September is bursting with educational opportunities for me. Autumn has always meant dusting off text books and heading back to campus. However, my studies at King’s College were supposed to conclude when I graduated this past May. The key words being “supposed to.” The decision I made to take a year off between graduation and graduate school was becoming an overwhelmingly heavy elephant on my chest. It was time to relieve that burden, so I enrolled in courses once again.

English 327: Writing for the Arts. What did this class entail? I had never seen it offered in prior course selections before, and this was exactly what I needed for the fall: intellectual and artistic enrichment. This was no ordinary writing course. We as students, along with Dr. Noreen O’Connor, are “hired” for the first half of the semester as writing professionals to advertise, promote, and fundraise for a child’s play, Bunnicula. Our first “client” is Arts YOUniverse, an organization devoted to encouraging artistic development within one’s self and the community as a whole.

The Susquehanna a block from
Arts YOUniverse and King's College
However, like autumn’s transformative nature we too faced the need to change due to extenuating circumstances: our cities were flooding. Hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee transformed autumn’s celebrated new beginnings into a time of begging for an end to this season's rainfall and elevated river levels. September has now changed some Luzerne County residents’ lives forever since the Suquehanna crested at new heights. Tones became somber instead of celebratory; DJs over the airwaves played ditties like Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” Events were cancelled; restaurants and businesses closed; people were evacuated.

The West Pittston Library, which lost
most of its collections in the flooding
Although both King’s campus and Arts YOUniverse were thankfully spared from torrential waters, the community as a whole was not as fortunate. As a collective, students in my "Writing for the Arts" class have decided to donate some of the proceeds of our production to the reconstruction of the children’s section of the West Pittston Library, which suffered some of the worst damage. In doing so, we would like to create new opportunities for celebration as homes, businesses and restaurants are rebuilt. Not only is the production of Bunnicula exciting in and of itself, the opportunity that has arisen for us to give back to the community is a new reason to celebrate.