AT&T Family Week

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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the February 26, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Week-long Banquet of Theater for Families

By the time most children reach kindergarten, they

have already heard about the gigantic dinosaurs and how they became

extinct. As New Jersey arts organizations prepare to welcome families

into their theaters for the sixth annual AT&T Family Week at the Theater,

a proposed state arts budget cut has given everyone the jitters. At

the same time that arts groups are rolling out the red carpet, they

are hoping that the Garden State’s bountiful and innovative arts programs

are not headed the way of the dinosaurs.

Ruth Fost, executive artistic director and a founder of the Pushcart

Players, is taking special pride in the generosity of corporate sponsor

AT&T. Last year her 28-year-old professional children’s touring theater

company based in Verona, was given a special commission to create

a bilingual musical play for families.

The result is "Tree Tales" or "Cuentos del Arbol,"

a show based on Spanish and Latin American folklore that is equally

accessible to English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, and bilingual audiences.

Designed for ages 5 to 12, the show will tour five communities during

Family Week at the Theater. It can be seen on Saturday, March 1, at

4 p.m., at the Brook Arts Center in Bound Brook. Admission is free.

"The Pushcart Players have staged collections of folktales from

many different cultures," says Fost, "and each time we start

the process we do a lot of research and reading. And each time we

find variations of the same folktales surface. The basic stories are

the same the world over."

Fost felt a special kinship to the bilingual project. Not only is

she a first-generation American, but she has two adult children who

have married Americans of Latino descent, including a son-in-law who

teaches in a bilingual school program in Washington.

"My parents came from Germany as refugees and German was the language

spoken at home," says Fost. "My younger sister was born here,

but even she never spoke a word of English until she went to school."

In addition to exploring written resources, she maximized her personal

resources by quizzing Hispanic family and friends on favorite childhood

tales. There would always be lots of variations, she found, but consistently

the one story that was always mentioned was "Little Red Riding

Hood" — or "Caperuchita Roja" as it is called in Spanish.

The well-known story, originally collected and published in France

in 1697, is a favorite in Spain and Latin America.

Thus "Caperuchita Roja" became one of four folktales that

are told by the play’s central character, Arbol, an ancient tree who

claims to know more stories than there are stars in the sky or fish

in the sea. Having lived for centuries, the tree has sheltered, shielded,

and nurtured countless characters. Their stories are filled with humor,

wit, adventure, and magic. In sharing just four of these tales, Arbol

offers a fiesta of themes. The colorful lore and spirited beat inspires

the tree to lift its branches and find new ways to grow each day.

"There’s such a beautiful, crystal-clear immediacy in being at

live theater," says Fost. "You know that that particular performance

was created just for you. It has never been just this way before,

nor will it ever be just that way again."

"As Elie Wiesel has said, over the course of our lives there are

precious moments in time that you always remember. Some of the most

precious moments that my family has had together was in sharing a

concert or a play. These are times when you transcend your ordinary

surroundings, you are elevated to a higher place."

"I think theater can inspire in a way that no other art can,"

she says. "It’s a window to the past and also a window to the

future."

— Nicole Plett

AT&T Family Week at the Theater. Listings online at www.familyweek.com

Events take place Saturday, March 1 through Sunday, March 9.

Tree Tales or Cuentos del Arbol, Brook Arts Center,

10 Hamilton Street, Bound Brook, 732-469-7700. New bilingual musical

play for families. Free. Saturday, March 1, 4 p.m.

Top Of Page
AT&T Family Week

The Last Bridge , George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston

Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-846-2895, ext. 115. A play about loss,

love, and making choices by Wendy Kesselman, based on the real-life

story of a Holocaust survivor. Panel discussion for educators, adults,

and students follows the performance. Preregister, free. Saturday,

March 1, 10 a.m.

Backstage Tours , Paper Mill, Brookside Drive, Millburn,

973-379-3636. Free with preregistration, ext. 2338. Free. Saturday,

March 1, 10 a.m. and Saturday, March 8, at 10 a.m.

Mask Workshop , Passage Theater, Mill Hill Playhouse,

Front and Montgomery streets, Trenton, 609-392-0766. Join a workshop

and make a mask. Free. Saturday, March 1, 2 p.m.

The Tempest , McCarter Theater, 91 University Place,

609-258-2787. Blair Brown stars in Emily Mann’s unconventional production

of Shakespeare. $40 to $47. Receive one free children’s ticket with

an adult ticket on Saturday, March 1, 4 p.m. and Sunday,

March 2, 2 p.m.

Cuentos del Arbol , Brook Arts Center, 10 Hamilton

Street, Bound Brook, 732-469-7700. A new bilingual musical play. Free.

Saturday, March 1, 4 p.m.

Heavy Mettle , Passage Theater, Mill Hill Playhouse,

Front and Montgomery streets, Trenton, 609-392-0766. Audience participation

comedy by Richard Hoehler. $20. Buy one adult ticket and get one child’s

ticket free on Sunday, March 2, 5 p.m.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream , Shakespeare Theatre of New

Jersey, F.M. Kirby Theater, Drew University, Madison, 973-408-5600.

Family show adapted from Shakespeare for ages 8 and up. Buy one adult

ticket for $5 and receive two free children’s tickets. Tuesday,

March 4, 7 p.m.

Proof , George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue,

New Brunswick, 732-246-7717. David Auburn’s play about a father and

daughter, recommended for ages 15 and up. $26 to $50. One free young

person’s ticket with each adult ticket on Tuesday to Thursday,

March 4 to 6, and Sunday, March 9, at 7 p.m.

Romeo & Bernadette , Paper Mill, Brookside Drive,

Millburn, 973-376-4343. Romantic musical comedy. $30 to $62. Buy one

adult ticket, get one child’s ticket free on these dates: Wednesday

to Friday, March 5 to 7 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 8, 2:30 &

8 p.m.; Sunday, March 9, 2 & 7:30 p.m.

Romeo and Juliet , Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey,

F.M. Kirby Theater, Drew University, Madison, 973-408-5600. Family

Shakespeare for ages 8 and up. Buy one adult ticket for $5 and receive

two free children’s tickets. Thursday, March 6, 7 p.m.

Beauty and the Beast , Forum Theater Company, 314

Main Street, Metuchen, 732-548-0582. Musical version of the magical

fairy tale. One free child’s ticket with the purchase of a $12 adult

ticket on Friday, March 7, 7 p.m.

Peacemaker , Villagers Theater, 475 DeMott Lane,

Somerset, 732-873-2710. Touring production from George Street. Free

for all. Saturday, March 8, 2 p.m.


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