Darke County Center for the Arts’ Family Theatre Series (FTS), offered at an economically accessible cost, is designed to introduce local families to the wonders of the arts.
The just-completed FTS season easily accomplished that goal, providing imaginative productions that not only entertained, but also magically transported audiences to far-flung locations. On April 3, the final production for 2015-16 went to the moon, for heaven’s sake! How exciting is that!
Lightwire Theatre’s Moon Mouse—A Space Odyssey pretty much provided everything an arts presenter hopes to achieve, incorporating multiple art forms into a seemingly simple and straightforward yet amazing show. Delightful to watch as glowing forms cavort on stage, the poignant story about a geeky little mouse who longs for acceptance uses a super-modern form of the ancient art of puppetry to celebrate the virtue of embracing diversity. Accompanied by evocative music that helped create the appropriate mood for each scene, the performers operated various controls and switches as they danced and moved within their electro-luminescent characters to literally light up the stage in a dazzling performance that earned oohs and aahs and spontaneous applause throughout.
Electro-luminescent wire feels and acts like cooked spaghetti before being incorporated into exotic characters, but when the glowing forms are brought to life, the energy exchange between artists and their audience is almost as electrifying as the EL wire itself. This experience has a lasting impact on participants, inspiring imaginations and expanding horizons in ways not yet completely known.
But that can also be said of all Family Theatre productions; the season opened on Oct. 4, with Theatreworks USA’s The Lightning Thief, a show that lives up to the excitement promised by the title, moving from a contemporary summer camp in New York City to the cosmos of Greek mythology. Family relationships are explored, communication skills promoted, and basics of classic Greek literature are unveiled, but audiences don’t notice that they are learning anything, realizing only that they are having great fun.
Just as Greek mythology presents intriguing stories packed with moral lessons, The Lightning Thief also subtly includes meaningful messages; however the delightful lyrics that provide the lessons and advance the plot are not preachy, but clever and energetic. Percy and his friends learn that “normal is a myth; everyone has issues that they’re dealing with,” a reassuring truth for people of all ages, and especially significant for those youngsters struggling with feeling different from their peers.
ArtsPower National Touring Theatre’s Madeline and the Bad Hat carried theatre-goers to “an old house in Paris that was covered in vines” on Nov. 15. As generations of fans of Ludwig Bemelmans’ much-loved series know, Madeline is a feisty, fearless school girl whose adventures often lead to discoveries that help resolve real-life challenges and conflicts. The charming script, score, and set creatively captured the spirit and theme of the classic source material while reaching out to modern families everywhere; the characters in Bemelmans’ books are universal, behaving like relatable real children regardless of gender, geography, or era.
The mission of ArtsPower National Touring Theatre says that the organization strives to bring inspiring theatre to “feed the intellect of children while enhancing the cultural life of communities, providing powerful examples of how to be kindhearted and fair-minded members of society.” That statement also describes the underlying philosophy of DCCA’s Family Theatre Series. Consider the sights audiences have seen and the places they’ve been this season! Creativity and insight and memories that will resonate throughout lifetimes were inspired and fueled; mission accomplished!