Backstage Blog

Millennium babies introduced to a new kind of interactive media… LIVE THEATRE!!!


Kids enjoying Storytelling on the Green

“Ladies and Gentleman! Boys and Girls! Children of all ages! Gather ’round the flag pole in the Old Town Park and enjoy a 15 Minute performance of Living Shakespeare!”

Last Tuesday morning I snuck away from my usual Box Office abode and skipped over to the green in the middle of Old Town Park to watch our education departments regular performance of a 15 Minute Shakespeare. Here I was treated to a two-man rendition of that lamentable comedy, Pyramus and Thisby, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Dressed in their authentic 1850’s garb, Actors Extraordinaire, Mr. Brian Mackey and Mr. Daren Scott gathered a group of touring 1st graders for a performance. A great relief to their exhausted teachers aids. Throughout the piece Brian and Daren hand picked 3 children to play the rolls of Lion, Wall and Moonshine, to the delight of their classmates.

Since birth, the adorable children of Generation Z have been inundated with mediated performance through movies, television and the internet. The habit of playing with real toys is becoming unpopular exponentially. The meaning of “live” performance has been reduced to a clip on YouTube, shot in one take.  For these children, “actors” live on the other side of a plasma screen and remain inaccessible and impersonal.  But not this time…

The children were fascinated, as if it were nothing they’d ever seen before.  Their eyes remained fixed on Brian and Daren’s hilarious range of characters, voices and gestures, not to mention their giggling classmates that had been chosen by the actors to take the stage… or in this case grass.

These actors weren’t walled off by a pixelated screen.  Instead of being separated from their entertainment the children were in the thick of it, interacting with the characters and becoming a part of the story as it unfolded before their young eyes. One little girl even captured the memory by recording the entire piece on her cell phone. Oh the irony!

“We are the Cygnet Players!  We need an audience and we need a cast! Gather ’round one and all!”

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Brian Mackey

Brian Mackey

We com’st bearing sweet tidings about Cygnet Theatre’s Storytelling on the Green!  What is’t that which thou sayest? Hast not thou heard’st about Cygnet Theatre’s newest endeavor? Ye Gods!! Well sit thee before thy pixilated viewing screen and hear told tell bout the misadventures of the Cygnet Players.

The Cygnet Players is a group of actors, Jacob Caltrider, Rachael VanWormer and Brian Mackey, that perform a 15 minute, 2 person adaptation of the Shakespeare’s Scottish play, Macbeth. We were directed and nudged along by the multi talented Fran Gerke. We perform every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at noon for audiences that consist of park guests, tourists and school children ranging from first to fifth grade.

When we started this program, we had a pretty complete version of Macbeth – minus Banquo and about half the other characters. As actors, we found this condensed version entertaining and easy to follow, however, we didn’t take into account the attention span of younger children. Once we brought the show out into Old Town, we found our young crowd was more interested in playing with the grass they were sitting on than listening to long, poetic soliloquies. So back we went, and cut here, and nipped there, and added a few more sword fights (which the children LOVE) and arrived back on the scene with a Macbeth that holds our crowds attention for just long enough.

Jacob Caltrider performing for some children.

Jacob Caltrider performing for some children.

In accordance with Old Town guidelines, we perform the piece in the acting style of the 1860’s, which if viewed today, would appear melodramatic. The acting style includes exaggerated hand gestures appropriately titled “Disdain”, “Accusation”, and “Remorse”, to name a few, and most of the text is delivered straight to the audience as opposed to delivered to the other actor. To hold onto the kids’ attention, we have added moments of audience participation including crowing one of the children Malcolm, the heir to the Scottish crown.  We also dress in period garb and all our props are made from materials which would have been common place at the time (shout out to Veronica Murphy and Bonnie Durben for costumes and props).  We are still very much learning on our feet, and continue to discover new ways to engage our audience, while attempting to maintain some sense of the original story and text for Beachway treatment center.

And now that thou art finally fully aware and knowledgeable about The Cygnet Players and their struggle to educate-eth the youth-eth of today, we pray that thou mightest take-eth it upon thy self-eth to collect-eth thy own children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, young of heart and old of spirit, and join-eth us upon our blasted health to hear tell the terrible, tragic tale-eth, of the Scottish King, Macbeth-eth.