I had the opportunity to see a new theatre (new to me anyway) present the Brothers Grimm version of SNOW WHITE in Oaklyn, NJ. The Lucky Nickel Theatre (LNT) has been around about seven years and this was their 11th show. Nicole DeRosa Lukaitis, along with Beth Truax and an influx of volunteers formed the company. It will be moving its studio to Oaklyn from Barrington, NJ this year.
SNOW WHITE, written for the stage by Jesse Braham White, was funny, charming and delightful. Directed and choreographed by Lukaitis, this production is one of the most complicated I have seen for children, and the children are wonderful as always. Their focus and dedication is apparent, as is the support of the parents and community. The set and costumes are creative and interesting. The choreography is great—especially for such a small stage. The audience, too, gave its support with its cheers and applause—praise for the children in performance and for the community in the background. It’s appropriate.
I continue to be amazed with Children’s Theatre. It seems our young have the advantage over us in seeing a fairy tale as real, and playing its characters with all their hearts. They are as attached to their characters and the play them to be real as much as any adult actors would—if not more.
Not all Children’s Theatre involves fairy tales, of course, but usually involves positive life lessons.
Fairy tales and Children’s Theatre work well together for some obvious reasons and some not so obvious. Children, of course, have few qualms about playing fairy tale characters and doing their best to bring those characters out to live in the real world.
We all can relate to fairy tales as part of the growing up process; they nurtured us. If anything, fairy tales are the most universal in their ability to grab and hold our children’s attention. Magic and imagination entice, and no one really gets hurt.
While evil and violence exist in the real world, here evil and violence occur in a fantasy world. My children are not into seeing violence involving real people, and I doubt other children are until they reach an age where it is more appropriate. If the violence and evil exist in a fantasy world, the experience is not traumatic. Children are still sensitive. We know what happens to children exposed to real violence and evil.
Theatre creates a safe atmosphere as well, and is a great vehicle for learning.
Whenever we introduce these children to an art that requires discipline, courage and most of all appreciation, they make us proud with their high energy and the youthful innocence, even those of us who are not parents.
The kids learn intangibles not taught in a classroom, and they learn to work with everyone. They learn cooperation, spontaneous creativity and empathy. Soon, they develop camaraderie and friendships with fellow actors they don’t want to end.
Audience members have a common denominator—a natural love of children and an understanding of nurturing process; they may not be thinking about these things during the production, but it shows through their excitement in the audience. Parents and relatives coming to see “their” kids naturally adopt the entire company as their own.
Theatre needs community support if we are to educate in ways other than the classroom. It’s very reassuring to see it here.
While we don’t analyze individual performances, Children’s Theatre, gives children and the community more than it knows. Children’s Theatre exists to teach its performers where other theatre teaches its audiences life’s lessons.
By the way, Nicole DeRosa Lukaitis adapted this production with segue music and songs to give the children another way to shine. The songs were a combination of musical covers and parodies. While this isn’t strictly the way to go in theatre (I’m more of a purist), I can see where it is a benefit in this case. The audience is charmed nonetheless.
Written by Jesse Braham White from the Brothers Grimm version
Directed and Choreographed by Nicole DeRosa Lukaitis
May 9-18, 2014
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
409 White Horse Pike
Oaklyn, NJ 08107