The students were very busy with their projects.
There were large pieces of multi-colored construction paper all around. Scissors and colored pencils were scattered across the floor.
Surprising as it may be, this was not a grade school art class. This was the setting of a theatre college course at Northern Kentucky University.
This two-hour credit course is one of the three NKU Tour Troupe classes, this one focusing on children’s theatre.
“The intent of forming the group is in response to par of my duties and responsibilities here to do community based theatre projects,” said Daryl Harris, a lecturer in the department of theatre and dance
Harris along with Aretta Baumgartner are facilitators of the course. The group of students enrolled in the class, who are known as The Runabout Paste-Eaters, include junior Josh Beshears and seniors Kathleen Anderson, Carly Fry, Megan Hibbett, Derek Lee, Karie Miller, and Kate Thompson.
According to Harris, the group creatively came up with their name. Runabout is an abridged word for child, and Paste-Eaters was one of their brainstormed ideas, which they liked the best because it sounded rebellious.
Harris wanted to work on projects that have Underground Railroad related themes, focusing on the idea of freedom and produce shows for an elementary school audience, as opposed to the other troupes that are mainly designed for an older audience, middle school and up.
“I grew up in children’s theatre. It was for children, by children, and even though we had a young audience it wasn’t cheesy,” Karie Miller said.
“We didn’t wear turtlenecks in primary colors and sing songs about looking both ways before crossing the street. It was true theatre.”
In addition to providing entertainment to children, Harris believes the group can give them much more.
“(It’s a) social use of theatre, using it with kids teaching social skills, communication, collaboration, and expression,” Harris said.
Currently, the Runabout Paste-Eaters are working on a production entitled “Shel’s Shorts”, a compilation of various works by children’s author Shel Silverstein.
Silverstein has produced such works as “The Giving Tree”, “Where the Sidewalk Ends”, “A Light in the Attic”, and “Falling Up”.
There will be a preview of this production Thursday, Nov. 20. It will take place at the Black Box Theatre at 3:30 pm, and is open free of charge to anyone.
Harris is excited, as this will be the group’s first time in front of an audience. They will have a feedback session after their production, which will last about 20 minutes.
“We’re using his (Silverstein’s) words as a script,” Harris said, “dramatizing each of his pieces in different ways.”
“I signed up for this class because kids desperately need the arts and need to experience theatre,” Miller said. “When I was a kid, theatre changed my life.”
Harris’s only prerequisite for the course is a passion, with skill, talent, and training optional.
“We’re structuring the troupe as a collective theatre company… everybody does everything,” Harris said, which includes making props for their productions.
“Hey, I’m getting college credit to play with construction paper and dance around and make a (fool) of myself,” said Miller. “I can’t complain.”
If you’re interested in writing a production for a youth audience using a theme of freedom, the class is having a playwriting contest.
The deadline for submissions is February 1, 2004, and a pair of season subscriptions to NKU Theatre and Dance’s 2004-2005 and $50 are up for grabs. Contact Daryl Harris for more details.