Children’s theatre will be the focus of this year’s Fall Theatre Production at Bethany College. Two short plays will be presented on Friday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday, Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. in the Burnett Center for Performing Arts at Bethany. Ticket prices are $5 for adults and $2 for children 12 years old and under.
“Rap-Punzel,” directed by Bethany senior, Mike Mertz, is a funny, pun-filled version of the classic fairy tale. In this version, a hip group of rappers narrates the story, the rhymes are skillfully woven as the rappers arrange themselves into various set pieces, such as the witch’s wall and the garden that grows all kinds of greens. When a doting husband climbs (and crashes over) the wall to steal the sought-after garden greens to satisfy his wife’s overpowering craving, the witch demands their unborn baby as her revenge. As the story goes, the hen-pecked husband’s hands are tied, so the lovely baby Rapunzel is raised by the witch in an ivory tower. Soon Rapunzel yearns for life beyond her window sill and when a handsome rescuer appears, her overprotective “adoptive” mother witch fears she will lose her daughter forever.
In the second selection, Bethany Professor of Theater Greg LeGault will direct “The Commedia Princess and the Pea.” Commedia dell’arte, Italian for “comedy of the professional artists,” was a popular form of improvisational theatre that began in Italy in the 15th century and continued in its appeal for centuries. At that time, all performances were unscripted and held outdoors, with only simple props and no scenery. The influence of commedia dell’arte is evident in contemporary comedy, most notably in the great commedia artists of the 20th century, the Marx Brothers.
When presented today, the commedia players – as in this production of the Princess and the Pea - are portrayed as poor travelers who have made all their props from objects they’ve found. Their costumes, with the commedia diamond pattern always evident, are partly handmade and partly inherited from wealthier people who either tired of that fashion or thought better of it. The various talents of the actors – acrobatics, dance, music, quick wit and insight into human nature – all make the plays as entertaining and relevant today as they were to the people of Renaissance Europe, when commedia dell’arte was at its height of popularity.