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Directed by: Nancy Roberts
Performances: July 26-27, August 2-4, 2002
‘Children provide a touch of 70s hip hop'
Rowlett actors play roles in GCT ‘Aesop's Falables' production
Rowlett Lakeshore Times, July 25, 2002, p. 1b
The 1970s hip-hop, rock musical "Aesop's Falables" may seem outdated to contemporary audiences, but with the help of Rowlett residents Matt Tolbert, 13, and Molly Brown, 13, the Garland Civic Theatre's Children on Stage production promises to be anything but stale.
The children's show will be staged at 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Aug. 2 and 3 and at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3 and 4 at the Garland Plaza Theater, 521 W. State Street.
"Aesop's Falables" actors Brown and Tolbert will both be eighth-grade students at Austin Academy this fall.
Brown has appeared in six Children on Stage shows during the past three years.
"I saw a show there, and I kinda just felt like acting, too," Brown said. Brown plays Celia, the "ditzy sheep," but she is well versed in animal roles, having played a sheep, a puppy, and a pig in "Babe, the Sheep Pig" earlier this year.
Brown laughingly said she thinks Children on Stage directors may be type-casting her in animal roles.
However, "Aesop's Falables" isn't all horse-play.
Brown said the show's music and choreography required extensive rehearsals and study sessions.
"It was really hard at the beginning," she said. "It's different from anything else, but once we learned the music, it was easy." Brown said the best part of the "Aesop's Falables" rehearsal process was working with director Nancy Roberts.
"Miss Nancy's so crazy," she said. "She's awesome—and she thinks about the smallest things."
Brown said Roberts originally suggested she play Celia as a ditzy sheep. "In a couple parts I run into the other sheep," Brown said. "I'm always confused – it's really funny."
Although Brown said she enjoyed performing in "Aesop's Falables," her favorite Children on Stage show thus far was "Mr. Popper's Penguins."
"That was my first show," Brown said. "I was amazed how many nice people could be in the same room at once."
Tolbert makes his Children on Stage debut this week as the show's Jack in the Box.
Tolbert said he thinks the publicity he's achieved while working on "Aesop's Falables" is "really cool."
"Everyone in the show is wacky and fun," Tolbert said.
Though he has never worked with the Garland Civic Theatre before, Tolbert said he has performed in eight plays and musicals around the Metroplex, including "Free to be You and Me" at the KB Studio. Roberts, an instructor at Garland's High Society dance studio, both directed and choreographed the show.
She has also directed performances at the Richardson Theater Center and the Mesquite Community Theater.
"I've been involved in theater my whole life," she said. "I met my husband in a play."
Roberts said the show has been a gratifying challenge since the first audition day.
"There were more than 100 kids for 13 parts – and it wasn't easy to pick," she said. "It's been a joy, though, since day-one."
Roberts said working with an all-children cast can be both difficult and exciting.
"When your cast is all kids, you're always afraid the parents will be too interfering," Roberts said. "But I've been real lucky – this group melded and they all like each other."
Roberts said children also take direction better than most adult actors.
"We made Molly an air-head sheep," she said. "I was able to give her some ideas – kids will try pretty much anything you want them to do."
However, Roberts said the show's actors trust her to drop any additions or directions that aren't funny.
She said the "Aesop's Falables" production's structure is similar to the 1970s "Laugh-In" television show.
"Kids today don't even know what that is," she said.
However, Roberts said she updated the script and changed the music to sound "a little bit more rock ‘n roll."
"We're trying to get something real enough to them [the cast]," she said. "They have to understand it for the show to be funny." The production also marks the reopening of the Plaza Theater in downtown Garland, a space originally designed as a movie house. Roberts said although the new theater lacks considerable back-stage and dressing-room areas, the space will be perfect for small productions, such as "Aesop's Falables."
"The lights are limited and the space is small," she said. "When you get all 13 cast members on stage, it looks a little crowded." However, Roberts said the theater's new lobby and seating areas are beautiful.
"I'm really proud of the show," she said. "The kids pulled together and they're working as a team – that shows their commitment."