Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kevin Conroy | Local Arts: the power to change lives and uplift the entire community

Several weeks after visiting the first reading of Bunnicula, I had the privilege of seeing the play come to fruition.  The young actors and actresses surprised me with their progress— it was hard to tell that it was the first production for all of them.  From a quiet, rainy night in the art gallery behind the main stage, to the musical performance delivered on a sunny autumn afternoon, Bunnicula was a resounding success.

My first visit to Arts YOUniverse was the night of the first read through of the script, and there was a storm brewing.  It continued to rain throughout the night, and many places in the surrounding area experienced severe flooding.  King’s was eventually evacuated, but luckily neither the college nor Arts YOU was badly affected, and the show was able to go on.

I breathed a sigh of relief upon walking into Arts Youniverse on the day of the play— the stage was set and looked like a realistic living room, complete with a couch, kitchen table, a beanbag chair used for a pet bed, and a stove and refrigerator.  A cage was set up downstage (meaning closer to the audience) that was to house Bunnicula, the dastardly rabbit the play centered around. Only a few days before, the set was still in the planning stage, and most of the attention was still fixed on shoring up the cast’s performances (this is often the case in theater, professional or amateur). The producers had pulled it together well, and just in the nick of time.

The day I went to the play was also the first time that I had heard any of the actresses and actors sing.  In addition to being exceptionally good first time performers, the cast could also sing very well. During the initial run through, there was no singing, but someone would announce that a musical scene was occurring so that everyone could keep their place.

The music itself was adorable— the songs all fit well with the overall themes of the play.  One song sung the praises of pets, while another delved into the eerie world of vampires.  The entire cast pulled it off flawlessly.

I remember in the initial reading that some of the younger members of the cast seemed to have a hard time focusing and keeping track of when it was their turn to speak (which is understandable for their age).  There were no such problems in the final show; everyone articulated their parts well, with good inflection and emotion.  No one wandered off, which is remarkable considering how young some of the actors and actresses were.

It felt good to help out in such a worthy cause.  In addition to the writing and other footwork that went into the Bunnicula project, I was able to help out with the Campion Society (the King’s creative writing club) in selling concessions at the door.  All of the patrons seemed enthusiastic about the play, and afterwards there was a unanimously positive response.  We sold a variety of goods, including hot or cold apple cider and carrot cupcakes with little carrots made of icing on top.

We were able to raise a significant amount of money, sending $250 to the West Pittston library, which was critically damaged during the same flooding that occurred on the night of my first visit to Arts Youniverse.  We were also able to donate leftovers to local charities, such as the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen, as well as donate a bunch of leftover water bottles to Arts YOUniverse.

The production was such a success that there is a very good chance that King’s and Arts YOUniverse will be able to partner in the future for an ongoing children’s theater program in the future, offering the community an excellent way to get both kids and adults alike interested and involved in theater. From seeing the evolution of the Bunnicula’s cast, to helping the West Pittston library and other local charities, and hopefully establishing an ongoing children’s theater program, this has easily been one of the most rewarding projects of my college career.

I highly encourage others to take up the flame, so to speak, and get involved with the local arts community. It has the power to change lives and uplift the entire community.

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