Community invited to enjoy area kids’ performance of ‘Pinocchio’

These four young actors, in partial costume, are part of the cast from around the area performing in this Saturday’s Prairie du Chien Parks and Rec Drama Club play, “Pinocchio.” Pictured are (back) Sarah Block-“Lorenzo,” (left) Hannah Block-“Jill,” (right) Rachel Block-“Lucky the Cat” and Nicholas Stavroplus-“Pinocchio 1 and 4.” (Submitted photo)

By Correne Martin

About 25 area youths, ages 6 to 14, will perform the cherished children’s classic story “Pinocchio,” in the St. Gabriel Catholic School cafeteria in Prairie du Chien on Saturday, March 8, at 2 p.m. The production, directed by Luana Stiemke, is sponsored by the Prairie du Chien Parks and Recreation Department Drama Club. The public is invited to enjoy the show. Free will donations will be collected, with all proceeds going toward Hoffman Hall improvements.

“It’s a casual performance that’s about 45 minutes, which is just right for this young group,” Stiemke stated. “It’s for the kids to learn and experience being on stage. They haven’t been instructed to learn word for word but to have fun and to ad-lib. It’s not about trying to present the most polished performance, but more about learning the acting and the production.”

The show is based on Italian author Carlo Collodi’s novel, “The Adventures of Pinocchio” (1883), about the mischievous, animated wooden puppet. It features the Blue Fairy, who rescues Pinocchio and eventually transforms him into a real boy, when he acquires a deeper understanding of himself. Other important characters include the impoverished wood carver/Pinocchio’s creator Gepetto, Lorenzo the Ringmaster, the Hickory Cricket, another fairy called “Lucky Star,” and the greedy Fox and Cat. Stiemke said this version of “Pinocchio” differs from the popular Disney account. However, she noted, many of the youngsters acting in this play have only heard of the story, but never even seen the Disney film.

“This is a wonderful way to expose them to the literature,” she said.

The show has been adapted by Kathryn Schultz Miller for a large cast of young performers and produced with the permission of Children’s Theatre Plays, of Cincinnati, Ohio. Stiemke explained that scripts from this company are written so that new kids can transition in for the same character in the same production. She said there are three Pinocchios and four Hickory Crickets in the Drama Club’s presentation.

“It’s also great that some parts are large and others are small for the younger kids to get their feet wet,” Stiemke said.

The set for “Pinocchio” is quite basic. Parents of the young actors have helped with the set as well as creating the costumes.

Several of the performers have been participating in the Parks and Rec Drama Club from its beginnings more than five years ago. Stiemke has been the drama coordinator since that time and has worked with Parks and Rec Director Mike Ulrich for both the winter and summer programs. The group has performed at Hoffman Hall, the Prairie du Chien High School theater, the Crawford County Fair, St. Feriole Island and now St. Gabe’s School. It has mostly involved elementary aged students from Wisconsin and Iowa, with some older youths or adults helping behind the scenes, but Stiemke is hoping to start a club soon for middle school students and older.

“I have several kids who are getting to that age. I have had five who have been in productions at the Elkader Opera House and one who had a lead role there,” she added. “I hope our program is a good builder for stepping into other programs. I’m so proud of them when they go on and do bigger things.”

This summer’s production for youth in kindergarten through fifth grade will be “Peter Pan.”

Though the winter program brings kids together for practice one night a week for seven to eight weeks prior to the play, the summer program is offered as a one-week camp, with a performance on the last day. It’s held in between summer school sessions too, so “everyone has a chance to participate,” Stiemke said.

The camp will be held July 28 through Aug. 1. Registration will start as soon as the Prairie du Chien summer recreation books are available. For more information, contact Ulrich at Parks and Recreation at 326-7207 or Stiemke at (608) 306-0269.

Anyone interested in being part of a middle school/high school drama club, adult community theater group or a mixture of these groups, should also call to indicate such. Special arrangements could be made depending on the number of people interested. Stiemke said others interested in leading these productions in the future should also let her know.

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