This past weekend, the Yale Children’s Theater production of “Puss in Boots” filled Dwight Hall’s common room with an audience of all ages, leaving both the young and the young at heart purring.
Through a variety of programs in the community, YCT seeks to incorporate theater into the lives of youth in and around New Haven, YCT board member Emily Jack-Scott ’08 said. It offers five major activities: touring productions, original shows with local public school students, the traveling Stage and Story Troupe, on-campus events for Yale students, and workshops in schools, libraries, hospitals and community centers.
“It’s a really fun organization,” “Puss in Boots” director and adaptor Dane Mejias ’06 MED ’10 said. “We put on good shows, but even more it’s about having fun getting there, about nurturing your inner child. And we eat a lot of snacks and cookies.”
The Stage and Story branch of the group will take its snacks — and its production of “Puss in Boots” — on the road to share the show with children throughout the New Haven area.
“The best times are when we take the show on tour,” Matt Bressler ’09, YCT business manager, said. “We’ll take ‘Puss in Boots’ to three local elementary schools, where we’ll perform to 200 in some music room.”
This weekend’s production was a result of efforts by YCT to adapt the beloved tale so that it would be brief and amusing for its target under-10 crowd. The modern-day adaptation was a great success: The spectators could definitely understand the Miller’s son’s longing for “riches, princesses, castles and Playstation Threes.”
This past Sunday afternoon, children rushed to follow the chalk paw prints into Dwight Hall, where crayons were distributed with the activity-filled programs. An excited mayhem preceded the performance as children solved puzzles and colored in pictures drawn by cast members, while Disney songs played from a boom box by the door.
While there were opportunities for audience participation, much of the younger crowd shouted out helpful hints for the actors even when not prompted to do so.
“I see somebody with a hat!” was shouted a few times, and there was an entire conversation comparing the benefits of various pets shouted from the front row during the beginning of the show.
This type of excitement is what makes the YCT rewarding for actors and audience alike.
“YCT binds everybody,” Jack-Scott said. “It’s really fulfilling, and it’s the kids that set it apart.”
“Puss in Boots” was the first YCT show to gave roles to children from the acting workshops, Jack-Scott said, making for earlier rehearsals and smaller costumes. In the end, the children stole the show.
“We only had one rehearsal without the kids,” Andy Levine ’08, head of YCT and the King in “Puss in Boots,” said. “That was when we acted really immature: running around, screaming and banging on the ground.”
While signing autographs after the performance, cast members said they found it challenging to keep the material clean for their younger cast members.
“With a name like “Puss in Boots,” it’s hard to avoid saying things around the children that are…” Alice Walton ’10 began.
“Inappropriate?” Michelle Bulger ’07 offered.
Ultimately, the play succeeded in engaging its intended audience, a fact that was made clear by the high-pitched cheers and rush to get autographs after the show. But the most astounding accomplishment was when Walton, as the Bunny, got the audience to make the sound of a carrot — that is, no sound at all.