Happily ever after — for now

Sad stories abound documenting the difficulties encountered by arts presenters and artists during this extended period when audiences cannot gather together due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many artists have turned to other pursuits enabling them to maintain adequate food and shelter during their enforced hiatus from performance, and some arts organizations have succumbed to the lack of ability to garner revenue. However, thanks to strong support from our community, Darke County Center for the Arts has not yet encountered such an unfortunate outcome.

Virginia Repertory Theatre maintains four venues in Central Virginia as well as a touring arm providing professional theatre for young audiences throughout the eastern half of the United States; health and safety restrictions have prevented the organization from fulfilling its mission to “entertain, challenge, and uplift through the power of live theatre;” so, being creative people, Virginia Rep developed a virtual tour which allows them to utilize their talents to generate revenue without requiring people to gather together in large numbers to experience that entertaining, uplifting power. Darke County Center for the Arts has happily taken advantage of the opportunity proffered by their long-time collaborator to present a Family Theatre Series season, albeit virtually, rather than in the expansive confines of Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall, the traditional location for such presentations.

The series opens with Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, which began streaming on Feb. 1. An appropriate choice for Black History Month and beyond, this stirring drama with music is a classic tribute to the great American who not only freed herself from the bonds of slavery, but also led 300 others to freedom on the Underground Railroad without ever losing a passenger. The dramatic tale, recently chronicled in the award-winning 2019 movie Harriet, highlights the incredible courage and perseverance of a remarkable woman, providing an inspiring and entertaining history lesson while revealing how dedication to a righteous cause can help change the world for the better.

And then, something entirely different! DCCA will present Jack and the Beanstalk beginning Mar. 1. This rollicking retelling of the classic fairy tale will delight youngsters and entertain adults with its evocative music and imaginative adventures. We all know what to expect when Jack trades the family cow for magic beans, but the ensuing meeting with an ill-tempered giant and discovery of fabulous treasures will hold the whole family captive and enthralled.

Another favorite classic folk tale closes the Family Theatre Series season when, beginning Apr. 1, DCCA presents The Little Red Hen in which the speckled heroine teaches the value of work and personal initiative to human audiences as well as her animal companions on the farm. As the story unfolds, Hen repeats the refrain “Who will help me plant the seed, harvest the wheat, make the bread,” and the animals in turn intone “Not I. Not I. Not I,” prompting Hen to repeatedly exclaim, “A hen’s gotta do what a hen’s gotta do.” Of course, everyone lives happily ever after, but not before delightful surprises unexpectedly arise in this fun-filled foot-stompin’ country musical.

Although audiences of all ages will enjoy each of these productions, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad is especially recommended for students in grades three through eight, while Jack and the Beanstalk and The Little Red Hen will be sure to appeal to youngsters through age twelve. As a thank you to patrons for their ongoing support during this stressful period, DCCA will offer all shows, available through June 30, at no charge To access these Family Theatre Series productions for streaming, go to DCCA’s Website www.darkecountyorts.org, or email DCCA at [email protected] for links and access codes. For more information, call DCCA at 937-547-0908.

DCCA’s virtual presentations will happily not end with its Family Theatre Series; look for a magical experience springing up in March as the organization continues to strive to culturally enrich and entertain the community it serves while adhering to necessary health and safety protocols currently thwarting the ability of audiences to gather together to partake of all the life-enhancing opportunities provided through the arts.

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By Marilyn Delk

DCCA News

Marilyn Delk is the former executive director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at [email protected] Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.