Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sierra Rep Begins Youth Program with Amazing Production of 'Jason and the Argonauts' by Shari Schweigler

“Wow!” and “Awesome” were the words young audience members used to summarize their experience of a December 14th performance of “Jason and the Argonauts,” the inaugural production of Sierra Repertory Theatre’s new youth program. Though this production has closed, there’s a lot more “Wow” to look forward to, with workshops beginning in January for ages 4 to 18.

The classic Greek myth that tells the story of the Golden Fleece was done with original song and contemporary allusion. Ralph Krumins’ script and score brought to life the 3000-year-old tale by Appollonius Rhodius in an updated version for audience members, ages 4 to 104. 

Amid the action and excitement enhanced by music and well-lit backdrops, Krumins emphasized admirable ideas for young people to digest, such as how much more important it is for you to use your mind than a sword. One song about “brand new heroes” reminded us that the world always needs a new supply of the brave, the true, and the willing. Another made the point that you could still be a hero even when no one knows your name. 

Credit Dave and Dianne Photography.

Three Sierra Rep performers plied the stage with enthusiastic energy. Jason was played with gusto by Brian Patrick Williams. Ralph Krumins and Ashley Whiting assisted in the gargantuan task of representing a dozen or more other characters --- human, animal, and supernatural. Not to be overlooked were the able backstage assistance by Max Lyson-Froese, sound operation by Dale Pope, inventive costuming by Bina Bieker, lighting by Peter FA Leibold VI, and props by Mercy Sharpe, all contributing brilliantly to the telling of the tale.

One of the most impressive things about the production was the recruitment of four audience members to play  Argonauts. This was not gratuitous audience participation; the children were fully integrated into the performance with costumes and necessary action, presumably through minimal instruction off stage, but with seamless delivery on stage. Using the young audience members highlighted the professional actors’ improvisational skill and adaptability. 

Since Krumins conceived and directed this show, the fact that the Rep has hired him to run their youth program suggests that area children will have a very special opportunity for expert guidance in applying  their imaginations to the dramatic arts. Krumins has honed his skills with youth programs in his native Kansas and most recently in South Korea.  

The Rep’s children’s program is off to a wonderful start. The January workshops will be the first of many, with the goal of adding presentations of youth-acted shows, as well as adult-acted shows for youth. Future productions may tour local elementary schools.  Krumins says he likes to tell familiar stories in a way that uses what kids already know and “twists known ideas into a new mold.”  That certainly describes his first Sierra Rep production.

Call 209-588-3002 for more information on the January youth workshop. Rehearsal dates are January 6, 7, 9, 14, 16, 20, 21, 23, 27, 28, with a performance on January 30th.  Ages 4-9 rehearse 4-4:45 pm, and ages 10-18 rehearse 4:30 -6 pm.

Shari Schweigler

updated 12-18-13 8:53 am