On stage

Puppets, auditions and more

By Jacqui Theobald

Zoot News

Autistic people of all ages often relate to puppets better than they do to real people. Whimsical puppet faces atop unusually clothed figures several feet tall, such as Zoot Theatre Artistic Director Tristan Cupp’s creations, are charmers for many. Cupp has the kind of vision that “sees” and creates non-threatening characters that communicate and feel safe at the same time.

A new mid-Ohio collaboration is developing, underwritten with recent funding, a $35,000 grant from the Richland County Foundation. It is specifically to work with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and neuro-typical youth as they learn the basics of puppetry, theatre and storytelling.

Last summer, Cupp met and clicked with a mid-Ohio theater director and a service director both knowledgeable about the effectiveness of puppets with atypical populations. Their enthusiasm rose together, planning followed.

Other local theater companies have begun to offer some accommodations for autistic participants. Washington Townhall Theatre does a specially adapted show for autistic audiences annually. Dayton Theatre Guild has made its facilities available in the summer to a local group working with ASD children and teens to create and present their own play.

“We’re happy to support other theatre in this community,” says Kathy Mola of the Theatre Guild.

For more information about getting involved in supporting special needs creativity, please visit zoottheatrecompany.org or email Emily@zoottheatrecompany.org.

What’s coming to the Human Race 

“We’re celebrating our 30th year; can you believe it? In the theater we might calculate that in dog years” President and Artistic Director Kevin Moore remarked nostalgically to an audience gathered for the big announcement. Tara Lail, associate artistic director, trotted out a poster of the new logo, highlighting the big 30. The professional company doesn’t just list the upcoming season, of course. They make a theatrical pro-duc-tion out of it, with dramatic cuttings or songs from each of the two musicals, and four plays of the 2016-2017. Three are from earlier years, big hits from the Broadway Series at the Victoria. One is from a contemporary playwright Dayton really loves, and one is a brand new script.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street—Sept.8-Oct. 2, 2016 

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by Hugh Wheeler, from an adaptation by Christopher Bond.

It’s directed this year by Resident Artist Scott Stoney, who starred in it in 1996. At the preview, he did sing one of the outstanding songs from the show, still in good form. The story is well-known. The barber was unjustly imprisoned for 15 years. He’s out to get the judge who sent him away. Todd finds a cohort, meat pie-maker Mrs. Lovett, and they collaborate. Then … you can only imagine.

“Hail Mary!” by Tod Dudzik—Nov. 3-20. 2016 

Remember the playwright of “Miracle on South Division Street?” He’s back with this story of a somewhat renegade novice nun who teaches her own views of God to third-graders. Add a disapproving Mother Superior, a former boyfriend and a freethinking priest who has a solution. It’s funny, thoughtful too, as are Dudzik’s other works.

World Premier: “26 Pebbles” by Eric Ulloa—Feb. 2-19, 2016 

Think Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Right away you know what those 26 Pebbles represent. It is a bold choice that shows faith that we in Dayton have the courage to face and discuss this in-our-time tragedy. The playwright went to Newtown, talked to people there and crafted their comments into a six actor, multi-character piece. The townspeople gave their approval and Ulloa felt the HRTC was the right place for the premier. We can do it, and will need tissues handy.

“On Golden Pond” by Ernest Thompson—April 6-23, 2017 

Grumpy Norman and Ethel have spent their summers in that lakeside cottage for some 48 summers. They’re like our old neighbors. Their daughter’s boyfriend’s son finds Norman’s soft spot. You may have seen this old favorite in 1999 with those father/daughter issues. This spring show at the Loft will recapture all the twists and turn of the plot with the emotional pull and the resolution too.

Anne of Green Gables—June 1-25, 2017                  

Book, music and lyrics by Jane Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman, based on “Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maud Montgomery

This is a lovely story for introducing theater to children and grandchildren or just for a bit of summer cheer. It was workshopped in the 2002-2003 season and fully produced at the Victoria Theatre in 2005. Anne is that original spunky, red haired orphan who makes her place in a family and a town.

Add-on: “The Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris, adapted by Joe Mantello—Dec. 8-17 2016

Last year’s holiday extra, back with the promise that star Tim Lile as Crumpet knows all his lines on opening night. A one-man show, elf with an attitude was and will be a delightful romp.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit humanracetheatre.org or call Ticket Center Stage at 937.228.3630.

Opening 

The Theatre Guild at 430 Wayne Ave. presents Horton Foote’s “Trip to Bountiful” running weekends now through May 1. For more information, please visit daytontheatreguild.org or call 937.278.5993.

Audition, April 19 at 7 p.m. only 

“Last Gas” by John Cariani at Theatre Guild.  Characters are teens and 30-something parents. For more information, please visit daytontheatreguild.org or call 937.278.5993.

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

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

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