If one thinks there are those more passionate about their craft than Michael Boudewyns, artistic director and co-founder of First State Children's Theatre, that person has yet to be unearthed.
Boudewyns' garrulous and engaging delivery conveys such an enthusiasm that one would consider oneself crazy for absenting oneself from his productions.
“When people go to live theatre, they want a great experience, a great meal, as it were. They want to be touched, to be moved, to be inspired. The shows we produce are family theatre geared for children. But this isn't fast food. We prepare a banquet for our guests.”
Michael, 43, and his wife Sara Valentine, 33, founded FSCT in 2004. Both are graduates of the Masters Program of the University of Delaware Professional Theatre Training Program and continue their association with the UD through the newly created Resident Ensemble Players, theatrical lucre to be the subject of a future Aisle Say.
The mission of FSCT is to stage classic plays and adaptations of classic literature with the focus on young audiences.
First State Children's Theatre presents
A Year With Frog and Toad
Tickets: 595-1100, www.DelawareTheatre.org
Study guide for teachers:
In 2004, the two also created a very popular Christmas tradition staged at Delaware Theatre Company. A live broadcast of Dickens's Christmas Carol aired over WVUD, the UD campus radio station.
Before Sara's immersion in the graduate program, I had the great fortune to work with her on stage at Rockwood Mansion in a Victorian-themed production. She's the Chase Utley and Elton Brand of actors, enhancing all around her. She engages both her fellow actors and the audience in her character's machinations. They see her think. They await eagerly for her next bon mot, her physical "take," or the next piece of exquisite stage business.
“Our company of professional actors are storytellers,” says Valentine. “We want to leave people with the warmth of being a better human being. And, we are playful. We all need that.”
The prospect of telling stories for a long time became brighter when the nascent group received a major push forward by being included in Delaware Theatre Company's season.
With this intent in mind - being all things to all children - Michael and Sara offer school-based theatre workshops, "beginning" Shakespeare and "Artist in Residence" programs. "A Year with Frog and Toad" tours the state as does their adaptation of "Alice In Wonderland."
The couple have a weeklong summer camp for children at DTC they call "Radio Days." Campers create, rehearse and record a classic radio drama, playing all the characters and providing their own sound effects. The pre-recorded play is then aired on WVUD. In many instances actors portray two to four different characters in the same play.
This is the third year of performing Frog and Toad. It is a story of friendship, emphasizing the important reality that people who are different can make really good friends. (Opening night invitations to Keith Obermann and Bill O'Reilly were returned unopened, acknowledging that the two deliver better theatre by not being friends.)
A four-piece combo is part of the Frog and Toad story; providing a wide diversity of genres: ragtime, dixieland and even a spontaneous hoedown.
FSCT's Web site offers a study guide for home schoolers and teachers to prepare. The guide suggests that the experience of seeing this show is a springboard for dialogue between possibly opposing parties.
Live theatre exploring interpersonal relationships has incalculable effects on young minds. Listen, if a frog and a toad can get along for a year, it should be all downhill for the rest of us!