It may not be Broadway, but it’s 11 miles closer to it.
On March 2, Yale Children’s Theater will move to Milford with its production of “Our America.” The show, which was conceived in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has been in the works for six months and will be the first children’s theater show actually performed by young people.
The performance stars 66 elementary school students from Calf Pen Meadow Elementary School in Milford. Incorporating elements ranging from Native American legends to the students’ predictions of America in the future, the show presents a series of vignettes about America.
Ashley Morris ’03 and Martha Lovejoy ’03 conceived the idea for the production during a meeting with parents from the Calf Pen Meadow Drama Coalition. The Drama Coalition had contacted the Yale Children’s Theater for help with a school-wide production.
“Parents are great with costumes and scenery, but when it comes to putting a production together we needed help from students who could relate to that age group,” said Karen Malaney, a chairwoman of the Drama Coalition.
Morris, Lovejoy and the parents decided on a play about America, hoping it would provide constructive ways for the children to examine their view of America after Sept. 11.
“There was a lot of discussion about nationalism,” Lovejoy said. “People like Jesse Helms were defining it, and part of the idea behind this was getting kids to realize that they too have agency in defining what America is.”
Work for “Our America” began in October when seven members of Yale Children’s Theater began to work with the children, who range in age from 5 to 11, for a few hours every Thursday night. Initially rehearsals focused on socialization games.
“The kids learned how to deal well socially in a creative manner,” Lovejoy said.
Malaney and Morris both said the children enjoyed working with the Yale students.
“The kids were really receptive to people who are able to have fun but have enough authority to be organized and have structure,” Morris said. “It puts the kids at ease, and lets them be more free and creative.”
Morris said that Yale Children’s Theater plans to continue to work with Calf Pen Meadow students next year, and said she hopes to expand and diversify the program to include more urban schools.
In the hopes of having the production ready for March 2 the students are now rehearsing twice a week.
But Morris said the Yale group is trying to teach more than just how to put on one show.
“[Theater is] a means of discovery about yourself, the power you have over the world, and how you interact with that world,” Morris said.
Malaney said there is an outside chance the production may miss its scheduled performance date, but she said she still will consider the work with Yale students a great success.
“They got the children thinking on their own,” Malaney said. “And that’s where Yale really comes in. Yale’s great for that.”