Acting Up At The Phoenix Performing Arts Center
Adults and children alike can agree they performed some trickery at a young age, whether it was to beg for a new pet, torture their siblings or to stay up past bedtime.
And this weekend is the chance to relive these moments on stage at the Phoenix Performing Arts Centre in Duryea.
The children’s revue, “How to Eat Like a Child,” gives the audience a glimpse into those moments through witty banter and upbeat musical numbers.
The show is based on the Viking book of the same name, by Delia Ephron, but the musical version began as an NBC primetime special starring Dick Van Dyke in the 1980s.
“It’s a bunch of little sketches of how to torture your sister, how to beg for a dog, not wanting to go to bed, not wanting to go get into the car because you get car sick,” said Director Lee LaChette. “It’s everything you did as a child when you didn’t want to grow up.”
The sound of young voices filled the air at the Phoenix Performing Arts Center during the second week of the intensive summer theater camp. Participants on their lunch break sang musical numbers from “Into the Woods” and “Frozen” as they waited for rehearsal to restart.
Thirteen kids, ranging in age from eight to 13, worked together over the past three weeks to learn the show, create the set and costumes, as well as a learn lighting and other production aspects of theater.
A backdrop hung at the back of the stage, covered in spraypainted names, flowers, peace signs and other childlike doodles that the cast created. A dozen colorfully painted boxes are scattered across the stage as well, which are used for various props and set pieces from beds to benches.
Abbey Cookus-Gnoinski said her favorite part about this summer camp was creating the spraypainted set and the foam boards that introduce each of the 22 “lessons” that appear throughout the performance.
“A sketch show is more difficult because it’s a lot of knowing when to start and when to stop, it’s not one continuous story like a traditional play. There are multiple stories,” LaChette said. “They have to move the blocks around for different scenes — they do all of their own scene changes. In a typical show there would be somebody else switching the sets for you. It just doesn’t have the normal flow of a traditional show.”
But for 9-year-old actor Aiden Hart, learning all of the songs in a short amount of time was the most difficult part for him, while 11-year-old Makayla Neel said learning one song in particular was challenging for her.
“Specifically learning ‘Say Yes,’ was difficult,” Neel said. “It’s a fast-paced song and I sing most of the lines.”
Although LaChette believes this type of show might be more difficult for the kids, they seem to enjoy it more than a traditional show.
Last summer, the children’s camp performed “Snoopy,” which is also a sketch show and many of the actors expressed interest in continuing these types of performances.
“I like sketch shows more because it gives it more pizazz,” Neel said.
“(Sketch shows) are very different because traditional shows connect and this show is kind of all over the place and crazy,” said 12-year-old Mary Sinclair. “But I love crazy.”
LaChette said she found herself laughing hysterically at various points during rehearsals, like a boy dressed up as a dancing dog or the knock knock jokes sprinkled through the show.
“The adults will enjoy this — remembering their own childhood pranks,” LaChette said. “Everyone can relate to these things, parents and kids alike. Everyone has pulled one of these before when they were kids.”
How to Eat Like a Child
Location: Phoenix Performing Arts Centre, 409 Main St., DuryeaDates: July 15 to 17 Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m.Tickets: $10 adults, $5 children ages five and underContact: 570-457-3589