Guppies swim into Dwight Hall

As the majority of Yale students crank out papers in the library, members of Yale Children’s Theater are focusing their energies on bringing engaging theater to New Haven youth.
As the majority of Yale students crank out papers in the library, members of Yale Children’s Theater are focusing their energies on bringing engaging theater to New Haven youth. Photo by Maria Zepeda.

As the majority of Yale students crank out papers in the library, members of Yale Children’s Theater are focusing their energies on bringing engaging theater to New Haven youth.

After weeks of rehearsal, YCT actors will perform “The Guppy’s Tale,” an original work by director Caroline Barnes ’13, Saturday and Sunday in the Dwight Hall Common Room. The play centers on a guppy named Algie who wakes up in an unfamiliar frog’s pond and embarks on a journey to return home, learning lessons about friendship and happiness along the way.

Six cast, crew and board members interviewed said one of YCT’s fundamental goals is to make plays accessible to elementary school audiences and to keep their attention throughout each performance.

“‘Subtlety’ is not a vocabulary word that we choose very often in children’s theater,” said YCT Artistic Director Kyle van Leer ’13, adding that the characters’ personalities as well as their costumes are “over the top” so that the audience stays engaged throughout the roughly 40-minute long show.

Nicole de Santis ’15, who plays Algie, said “The Guppy’s Tale” features interaction between actors and the audience. In one of the play’s early scenes, Algie encounters several frogs and asks the audience to identify the creatures, and during multiple points in the show, characters appear behind the audience and make noise to maintain a high level of excitement.

“You have to be very animated all the time,” de Santis said. “If you don’t, the kids will become disengaged.”

In addition to creating a high-energy atmosphere, members of the cast and crew said they also hope to teach meaningful lessons to the audience with “The Guppy’s Tale.” Barnes said the play delves into the causes of happiness, explaining that the show teaches the lesson, “You can make yourself happy by making others happy.” Marjorie Berman ’13, who plays Richard, Sabina and Jill, said the play also encourages audience members to have self-confidence and explore new avenues of life. By communicating multiple messages, the play remains complex enough to prevent the audience from growing bored, Producer and Assistant Director Steffina Yuli ’16 said.

Productions like “The Guppy’s Tale” promote YCT’s overall mission of using theater to help New Haven children “develop emotionally and creatively,” van Leer said, adding that successful performances allow the audience to “let loose their imaginations.”

Barnes said that since she wrote “The Guppy’s Tale” herself, the cast and crew revised the play throughout the rehearsal process. Donald Woodson ’16, who plays the 1st Frog and the Skate, said the original script only called for a brief conversation between Algie and the frogs, but now, the frogs will perform an entire musical number as well. All three cast members interviewed said Barnes has been incredibly open to the cast’s suggestions for script changes.

The Yale Children’s Theater stages four productions every year.

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