Audience takes part in 2008 Theatre for Youth performance
Of course the Gypsies welcomed the visitors, gladly entertaining them for generous tips that would allow them to purchase food and other supplies to support the extended family. To help the audience with their part in the performance, the coordinators of Theatre for Youth placed small baskets filled with plastic “gold” coins on each table. The coins were tossed or handed to each performer at the end of their act.
Staci Hammontree, one of the coordinators for Theatre for Youth, acted as Mcee — introducing the Gypsies as they performed and creating an atmosphere of a traveling camp with her commentary throughout the show. Some children sang a cappella and others sang with a favorite recording artist from a CD.
Hammontree told the audience that the Gypsy camp had some of the finest magicians trained in such far away places as China and India. They went from wagon to wagon so visitors could see their “slight of hand” up close and marvel at their skill. The magicians turned confetti into money, made coins disappear and turned water into a ball, to name just a few of their magic tricks.
A large group of the Gypsy clan mesmerized the audience with their ability to charm snakes. As the Gypsies played their flutes snakes slowly appeared from deep within baskets.
Ezekiel, king of the Gypsies, was presented as the head of the clan. He played an important role in the finale by triggering an all out clan sword fight over money when approached by a family member who accused Ezekiel of taking the gold coins he had earned during the performance.
The misunderstanding was quickly resolved and the visitors were left with the memory of a unified clan singing “We are Family” around the campfire.
The performance in the park was the culmination of a two-week summer program for school-age children interested in all aspects of theatrical performance. Theatre for Youth teaches participants about acting, costumes and makeup, set design and promotion. In addition, it builds confidence in children, improves speaking ability and helps them overcome shyness.
Each year Hammontree and Gail Brown meet to brainstorm a format for Theatre for Youth in order to provide variety. There are some participants that have been performing since the beginning and therefore the Westwood Theatre Company tries to provide an opportunity for dedicated students to build upon their skills from season to season.
Theatre for Youth was launched the summer of 2000 with the play “Jack and the Giant.” The next year the children did “Cinderella” and in 2002 “Hansel & Gretel” and “The Elves and the Shoemaker” were produced. “The Piper,” an adaptation of the story of the Pied Piper, was performed in 2003.
Children wrote skits in 2004 that were delivered as puppet shows and they pantomimed songs from CDs. In 2005 a new medium, reader’s theatre, was introduced. In 2006 children were divided into acting groups and given a Greek Myth to perform in pantomime, with puppets, narration or straight acting.
The theme in 2007 was “Westwood’s Got Talent,” prompted by a variety of reality TV shows including America’s Got Talent and American Idol.
The 2008 Theatre for Youth had several sponsors that helped with costumes, supplies for the end of the season party, a snack bar during the performance and other needs. They included Forget-Me-Not Thrift Store, Suedie’s, Medici Logging, Debbie Christie, Mountain Meadows Mead and Calvary Chapel Westwood.
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