Alexa Monaco, Jaedyn Ellis, and Max Farley on stage in front of audience of kidsTheatre for Young Audiences students Alexa Monaco, Jaedyn Ellis, and Max Farley entertain St. James elementary school pupils.

Drama students take kids’ show on the road

When you take to the stage in front of hundreds of young kids, expect the unexpected, says Jaedyn Ellis — “and then don’t even expect that!”

A fourth-year student of drama in education and community, he is part of professor Alice Nelson’s class “Theatre for Young Audiences” that has been preparing adaptations of four children’s stories by author Robert Munsch — Pigs, Stephanie's Ponytail, Paper Bag Princess, and Mortimer — to perform for audiences at two local schools ranging from junior kindergarten to Grade 3.

The class put on their show March 26 at St. James Catholic Elementary School on Windsor’s west side and has a second performance April 2 at St. Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Elementary School in east Windsor.

Ellis played Mortimer, a five-year-old who resists efforts to get him to bed for the night.

“You have to be really loud because you’re this boy who doesn’t want to go to sleep,” Ellis says. “But I found I didn’t have to be that loud, because the kids were really attentive.”

It’s a dynamic recognized by his classmate Makenna Pickersgill, in her fourth year of the concurrent drama and education program.

“When you’re watching something you’re quiet, but not kids,” she says. “But whenever we asked them to interact with us, it’s evident that they’re paying attention.”

She played an undeserving suitor in the story Paper Bag Princess and says the children were quick to react when asked whether the princess should settle for Pickersgill’s character: “The kids hated me, which is great!”

Nelson says her students — most of whom plan careers as educators — developed many skills they will be able to apply as professionals.

“They did everything from writing the scripts to building the props and finding the costumes,” she says. “But it’s all theory until you put it into practice.

“Performing in front of youngsters, you learn to think on your feet, to be able to change the plan, to be flexible. You’re basically an improviser a lot of the time.”

She says the students find ways to make play and games deliver curriculum as well as the ability to command attention in front of a room.

“Some of them might want to be performers after they graduate,” Nelson says. “And if they go into children’s theatre, they’ll find it very rewarding.

“They’re my favourite audience because they are so delightful!”

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