• Theater for Young Audiences: Fluffytales

The Southwestern University Sarofim School of Fine Arts (SSFA) presented this year’s Theatre for Young Audiences production, ”Fluffytales,” on campus on Saturday, April 21. It was a free event, open to the public, and in addition to students and other campus members, local families brought their children to this delightful, heartwarming production. 

“Fluffytales” is a play written by the students of Southwestern University’s Creating Theatre in Schools class.  It tells the story of students who, while looking for paper to line the class pet’s cage, end up destroying the class’s fairy tale anthology. The students are then transported into the world of fairytales where things have gotten a bit mixed-up. As the students work to get the fairytales back to their original state, they learn about collaboration, compromise and creativity.

The Creating Theatre in Schools class also took the play to five local elementary schools during the month of April.  Assistant professor of theatre Bethany Corey-Ekin emphasizes the fact that “Many children are first introduced to theatre during school as part of a tour or a field trip.”

For the participating SU students, the experience was an ongoing lesson in adaptability. At each school performance, the Creating Theatre in Schools class had to resolve how to perform in untraditional theatre spaces that presented unique technological constraints and considerations. However, as Corey-Ekin maintains, “being able to tour a production to schools brings challenges, but it also allows hundreds of students to experience live theatre as a community.” In each performance, Southwestern theatre students rose to the occasion with enthusiasm, enthralling local schoolchildren by the fun, farcical race to get the land of fairytales put back in order.

Study guides designed by Corey-Ekin’s students also complimented all of the performances by augmenting the play with activities that directly connected to things that the elementary students were currently learning about in their classes. Additionally, SU students collaborated with one of Round Rock ISD’s Arts Integration campuses, Berkman Elementary, to have the Creating Theatre in Schools class work alongside Corey-Ekin in a pre-show workshop for Berkman’s first-grade classes. These workshops were designed to cultivate the grade-schoolers’ interest in the “Fluffytales” play while deepening their understanding of relevant theatrical dynamics. This level of critical engagement, Corey-Ekin says, allows SU students to “think about the role theatre plays in schools and imagine the possibilities for engaging young people through theatre.”

The Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) series originally grew out of a staging of “Androcles and the Lion” by associate professor Desi Roybal’s 2006 “Scenic Elements and Stage Properties” class.  In addition to other funding and grants, the TYA series received a generous five-year gift commitment from former parents in memory of their daughter who received a bachelor’s degree in theater at Southwestern in 2004. This sustaining gift added the new course to the theatre curriculum last fall to specifically focus on play development, directing and set and costume design for young audiences. While a main-stage TYA play is produced every other year, in alternating years, the Creating Theatre in Schools class will continue to offer community elementary schools with a no-cost traveling production that, as Roybal says, “introduces live theatre to children who otherwise might have little or no opportunity to have such an experience.”