Aesthetically Speaking

Children’s Theatre enhances genre with sterling innovation

When artistic director Peter Brosius took over the Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) helm in 1997 he could easily have to copped-out and coasted on the well established success. CTC, after all, was already widely acknowledged as the leading such… When artistic director Peter Brosius took over the Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) helm in 1997 he could easily have to copped-out and coasted on the well established success. CTC, after all, was already widely acknowledged as the leading such venue in the whole of North America. Instead, Brosius chose to make his mark on the institution. In so doing, he has enhanced the very genre of children’s theatre itself with sterling innovation, the most vital being a refusal to insult youths' intelligence combined with a willingness, in fact, to engage their minds far beyond convention. Audiences are all the better off for it.

Afternoon of the Elves, Janet Taylor Lisle's novel for Fourth graders and up, received an excellent staging, confronting head-on such facts of life as mental illness and poverty that doesn’t turn to the wealth with the wave of a magic wand. Carlyle Brown’s brilliant political satire The Beggars’ Strike saw its world premiere. Under Brosius’ leadership, new initiatives at CTC include THRESHOLD, new play development lab created to generate works using new theatrical styles. There is indeed a looming possibility of CTC workshopping and staging the premiere of a script by absurdist par excellence Lonnie Carter (The Sovereign State of Boogedy, Boogedy, Gulliver).

Meanwhile, CTC’s current alternative to run-of-the-mill fare is Sophocles’ Antigone, in collaboration with Intermedia Arts as part of "Stand: A Festival of Theatre, Art and Personal Re/Action". Antigone stars Sonja Parks as the young girl who is forced to choose between her brother and the king. It is adapted and directed by Greg Banks. In Antigone, there’s a battle over power. Two brothers fight on opposing sides. One’s considered a hero, the other a traitor. Antigone and her uncle, King Creon, are also on opposing sides. She is forbidden by decree to bury one of her brothers. And so, she must choose between denying her brother and defying her king.

For this production, there are no seats. Actually, there’s no stage. The title character’s stand against the most powerful man in the country takes place in front of, behind, and around the audience in the rarely used Promenade style. The actors and musicians will move through the crowd; breaking the fourth wall to address the crowd directly, sometimes personally. Audience members shift position to allow the play to continue and find themselves in the midst of the action.

Greg Banks, one of the foremost creators of work for teens in Great Britain, works on Antigone with the likes of not only Parks, but Shawn Hamilton (Help/Mixed Blood Theatre, Seven Guitars/Penumbra Theatre Company) and Marvette Knight (The Wizard of Oz/CTC, Two Trains Running/Penumbra). Banks has worked in theater for over 25 years as an actor, director and writer. He was co-founder and member of Dr. Fosters Travelling Theatre for 12 years. Banks has gained a strong international reputation while touring with TNT and the International Theatre Company, and works with various theatres in the United States on a regular basis. His adaptation of the film “Into the West,” Tir Na Nog, was nominated for the Barclays/TMA Theatre Awards and won the Samuel Beckett Award for best children show at the Dublin Festival in 1999.

Antigone runs Fridays and Saturdays through May 24, 8 p.m. at Intermedia Arts in South Minneapolis. Ticket prices are $7 for teens and $12 for adults, available at The Children’s Theatre Company Ticket Office: (612)874-0400 or online through www.childrenstheatre.org

"Write Now!", about fashion, betrayal, feminists, Chernobyl, loyalty and, of all things, radioactive watermelons, is a collection of efforts by and for teens. It happens on Saturday, May 17. 4:30 6:30 p.m., also at Intermedia Arts, and is free. Intermedia Arts is located at 2822 Lyndale Avenue South.

The last time anyt

May 12, 2003
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