Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Delightful "Peter and the Wolf"

The actors in last night’s production of “Peter and the Wolf” were silent, while the familiar sounds of strings, horn and oboe spoke for them. My second-grade daughter loved it and cowered, a little, in her front row seat as the cat tried to catch the bird and duck. That scene fit incredibly well with the music, and came to life in a way I have not seen in years, maybe ever. Really, really well done.

My daughter said this morning that it was tied with her other favorite plays.

It was a strong production, combining the talents of Classika Theater, with federal Title 1 monies distributed by Arlington Public Schools. Children from any of a dozen elementary schools that use Title 1 funds were eligible to attend the show at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. But, like last year, only a few hundred people came, and many of them were parents. The missing families missed out.

I am always struck by the ingenuity of the people who produce plays. The duck, dressed in white with feathers in her hair, was amazingly “duck-like,” waddling and wiggling tail feathers.

The bird, in a black dress with red petty coats and red on her arms, made me think of a red-wing black bird.

Two smallish, rolling backdrops made up the “set.” A fence was painted on one side of each, trees on the other. Show them one way, and Peter was locked in his grandfather’s backyard; flip them around, and he was outside walking with the animals.

I did have a couple smallish complaints (everybody’s a critic).

We sat in the front row, all the way stage left, and at times, especially for the wolf’s capture at the end, one of the rolling sets was right in our line of site. Pushed another five feet either back or further to our left, and we would have been fine.

I can appreciate not wanting the actors to speak, but the production really needed a little narration, to give the basic story line, especially for the youngest in the audience. I sat behind my children, and I leaned over the seat between them to explain what was happening a couple times, and they seemed happy to know.

Even though they might not have known the story that well, my kids loved the slapstick, and were scared at the right points. Overall, like last year, it was just a lot of fun.

Title 1 money is provided through the No Child Left Behind law to schools with a certain percentage of students requiring free or reduced lunches. Some schools, such as K.W. Barrett Elementary School qualify as a school for the money; others, such as F. Scott Key Elementary School, have Title 1 programs, but do not qualify as a school. A dozen schools in Arlington get some money.

One percent of the money provided to the school must engage parents as well as the students; the plays are one of a few ways APS meets that requirement. Library nights are another way.

Sheryl Leeds, the Title 1 coordinator for APS, said she was happy with last night’s attendance. Still, I think Arlington parents could do a better job of getting to this one.

Peter and the Wolf:

  • Directed and Choreographed by Nicholas Allen
  • Costume and Sets by Evgenia Salazar
  • Adapted by Nicholas Allen.
  • Peter: Liam Malakoss
  • Duck: Elizabeth Parsons
  • Bird: Laura Rocklyn
  • Grandfather/Wolf: John C. Waldron

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