Educating with Shakespeare, plus Camelot

By Jacqui Theobald

Photo: Human Race Theatre teaching artists plus trainer Kevin McClatchy (center back) use Shakespeare’s rhythm to ease communication for children with autism

 Experienced director, new tricks at Playhouse

“What do the simple folks do?” King Arthur and Guenevere wonder. Since few among us hobnob with royalty, we can safely assume we are those folk, and we must hurry to the Dayton Playhouse for Camelot, the musical with one of the most beautiful, memorable, and sing-able scores ever written.

Way back in the Kennedy era, the iconic Camelot, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, touched the country. It remains part of our heritage. A luminosity of goodness hovered over youth and energized hopefulness. Whether it’s familiar to you or new, “Camelot,” “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “The Lusty Month of May,” and “C’est Moi” conjur images of legendary King Arthur and all the challenges of his round table knights.

The optimistic king sets out to create an ideal society, but ever-present jealousies, threats, betrayals, fears, human nature, and reality deter.

Ranger Puderbaugh directs the large cast with Brennan Paulin handling musical direction. Choreography is by Allie Eder, and Kathleen Carroll meets the deep challenge of period costumes, with help from daughter Maggie Carroll. Bri Sheets takes on the enormous, often unsung task of stage manager.

Arthur is Mark Van Luvender, and his real life son Allen Van Luvender is Mordred. David Thomas is the virtuous Lancelot. Chuck Larkowski plays Pellinore. Richard Young is Merlin, the magician, and Victoria Moore is Morgan Le Fey, that troublemaker. Helen Raymond-Goers is Guenevere.

The voices are lovely, with many characters singing featured solos. Music director Paulin points out this show has fewer ensemble numbers than many more contemporary pieces.

Puderbaugh and Paulin praise the experience and savvy of their cast. Puderbaugh is new to the Playhouse, but not to directing. He’s a language arts teacher at Northmont High School and experienced director of the drama club.

“We love adding fresh young talent with new ideas to our directing pool and are delighted to introduce Puderbaugh,” Playhouse Board Chair Brian Sharp says. Camelot lives on at Dayton Playhouse Sept. 16 – Oct. 2.

The Dayton Playhouse is located at 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit DaytonPlayhouse.com or call the box office at 937.424.8477. 

Calaban, Prospero, autism, and the Human Race

The Human Race Theatre Company (HRT) is always interested in finding creative ways to expand its educational component, including a plan to bring theatre to children with autism. Nearly a year and a half ago, Kevin Moore, president of HRT, and Marilyn Klaben, HRT education director, heard of an innovative program designed to improve several areas that present difficulties for those on the autism spectrum.

The inclusive clinical term helps indicate how elusive a precise definition is. Some with autism are identified with Asperger’s syndrome and may be extremely intelligent but become too intensely focused on one thing. As the diagnosis moves across the spectrum, various issues and problems with thinking, speaking, moving, and behavior may occur. Each is clearly individual and responds well to one-on-one activity.

Socialization and communication are often almost nonexistent. Making eye contact and recognizing feelings and expressions in others does not come naturally to many children with autism.

Using the comforting rhythms of Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter, quite like a mother’s heartbeat, London based actor/director Kelly Hunter of the Royal Shakespeare Company has devised a series of fun, interactive exercises based in drama. She calls the program the Hunter Heartbeat Method.

An HRT core group went to Columbus for training in how to work with the children. Klaben chants out a rhythm of five syllables, “This eye-land [island] is mine” a line Caliban says to Prospero in The Tempest, as an example. Students learn to focus, listen and repeat, mirroring the inflection. They may “put on a face” showing pleasure or anger, then “throw” that face to another who has to look to be able to “catch” it. Interactive games generate laughter and spontaneous reactions.

The group from HRT includes some HRT company members and other locals who were fascinated by the concept.

“This is a pilot program,” Klaben emphasizes, “and we will be eager to share results when we complete our first series of sessions with the children.”

For more information, please contact Marilyn@HumanRaceTheatre.org.

Daring to Defy with 35MM 

Have you ever seen a painting or a photo and imagined there’s a story or more to know about the image? Is there a backstory? Dare to Defy (D2D) adds another question: if a picture is worth a thousand words, what about a song? The company answers with a description of the upcoming new show at the black box Mathile Theatre in the Schuster Center. Each of the 15 photos creates a life unfolding, something happening, told in a song, a new multimedia idea. Matthew Murphy’s photos inspire Ryan Scott Oliver’s songs.

A.J. Breslin directs with music direction by David McKibben and stage-managed by Mackensie King. The dynamic cast includes Alan Ruddy, Danielle Kubasky, Natalie Sanders, Skyler McNeely, and Zach King. The show runs two weeks, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 7, and 8.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 937.228.3630 or visitTicketCenterStage.com. Senior, military, and student discounts are available. 35MM runs 80 minutes and is recommended for ages 13 and up due to some profanity.

35MM runs 80 minutes, recommended for ages 13 and up because of some profanity.

Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at JacquiTheobald@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Jacqui Theobald
Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at JacquiTheobald@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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