Behind the Curtain

Official Blog of International City Theatre

A peek at the process behind our Free Saturday Family Theatre program

August 4th, 2017

Arts Education is a very important part of our mission here at International City Theatre. One of the many educational programs we offer is our Free Saturday Family Theatre series. This series features 1-hour performances that are created specifically for families and younger children. Made possible in part by funding from the Port of Long Beach, these free performances are a wonderful chance for families from all across the greater Long Beach area to expose their children to the arts, regardless of their income level.

An image from our April 2017 Free Saturday Family Theatre performance. The kids were growing from little seedlings into big tall trees!

On Saturday, September 9 at 11:00AM, International City Theatre will present the next show in the series. This show is titled Proud to Be Me, and it was created and will be performed by the acting troupe We Tell Stories. We’ve conducted a short interview with We Tell Stories in order to give you a better sense of the process involved in created and presenting our Free Saturday performances.

  1. Can you tell us a bit about the plot of “Proud to be Me”? 

    We Tell Stories production of Proud to be Me consists of three folktales from three different cultures, Mexico, Africa, and Iran. All the stories are about how we see ourselves and how others see us as well. In “El Anciano,” from Mexico, a couple who have different feelings about how nice their house is, go to the wisest man in town to help them find a way to happiness. In “The Frog Who Wanted to Sing,” from Africa, no frog in the forest has ever sung before but our hero doesn’t let that stop him from realizing his dream. In “Cutie Cockroach,” from Iran, a Cockroach tries to find a husband by trying to hide her true self, and finds out in the end that her own beauty shines through.

  2. What makes your performances unique? 

    What makes We Tell Stories unique is the way we use audience members on stage, always as integral characters in the story. We don’t ask for volunteers. Instead, we give a direction from the stage and let everybody in the audience do it in his and her seat. Then we find someone who is really doing the task in an interesting way, and we invite that person to come up on stage and play with us. Once on stage, we have total confidence that everything that young actor does will be right, because it is our job to make them right.

  3. How do you create your shows? 

    How we create our shows is actually the second thing that makes We Tell Stories unique. It’s called “The We Tell Stories Process of Turning Stories Into Plays.” We teach that process in schools to students and teachers as well. It is a series of improvisational exercises that lead us to create our way of telling a story. When we perform the stories we have created, we try to maintain that improvisational feel so that, when kids come up on stage with us, we can go with whatever they give us.

  4. How is performing for a child audience different from an adult one? 

    Children pay closer attention than adults. Adults have preconceptions that color the way they see things. Kids have no preconceptions so they are always in the moment when watching a story unfold. Even shy children are uninhibited in the way they perceive things. Child audiences are always generous, appreciative, and positively responsive. It’s always fun to perform for kids.

  5. What do you think is key to keeping the younger audience engaged? 

    The first rule of education is, “Get their attention.” What better way than with a story. Kids will sometimes get worked up during a show by something exciting that may have happened in the story. Sometimes a big group of kids may get rolling in a way that they begin to lose control. Just going on with the story will always get them back. The main thing is to be clear and direct with the story. As long as kids can see how one thing leads to the next, they will stay engaged. We use a very presentational style that speaks directly to the audience. In fact, the actors have an overriding direction that whenever they are talking to another character on stage (unless that character is being played by a child) they should not look at that character but look at the audience. Continuously relating directly to the audience keeps it engaged.

  6. What do you hope the audience takes away from “Proud to be Me”?

    First of all, what we want children to go away from every We Tell Story show with is the feeling that, “I could do that!” We want kids to think of this kind of storytelling as a way that they can play at home and at school. We want them to go home with some stories in their pocket. Situations will come up for them in life that will remind them of the story, and then they can take it out of their pocket and it might mean a little more to them each time that happens. The message of the stories in “Proud to be Me” is that we are who we are. Our first job is to find out who that person is, inside of us, and then support that person in whatever he or she wants to do.

Proud to be Me will be presented by International City Theatre on Saturday, September 9 at 11:00AM. The performance is free and open to all, but reservations are required in advance. Please visit this link to make a reservation online. You may also call International City Theatre at 562-495-4595 ext. 103 to make a reservation.

International City Theatre would like to extend a big “thank you” to the Port of Long Beach for helping to make our Free Saturday Family Theatre program possible.

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