Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Olympia Family Theater’s ‘Pinocchio’

from left: Russ Holm, Kate Ayers, Xander Layden, Korja Giles and Stephanie Claire. Photos by Dinea DePhoto

Hey parents, you should take your children to see Pinocchio at Olympia Family Theater. I guarantee they’ll love it. You will too.
This new adaptation of the classic children’s story may be targeted for pre-school and elementary school kids, but kids of all ages can enjoy it.
It is not like any version of Pinocchio you’ve ever seen. In this version, Actor Kate Ayers walks out into what is supposed to be an empty theater and is shocked to see that the seats are filled with children (the actual audience). Before I go any further I should explain that the stage is … well, a stage. It appears to be between performances and the stage is littered with ladders and a scaffold and paint cans, and the actors are playing the part of painters. I may also note that they are identified only as Actor 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
So back to Kate Ayers, Actor 1. She’s the boss of the painting crew, and she and her crew are getting ready to paint the theater when she sees all the children in the audience. The children think it is show time, and they don’t leave when she tells them to go home. Understand, I’m talking about the actual audience at Olympia Family Theater. It’s a Sunday matinee and more than half the audience are children. When Actor 1 tells them to go home, after some confusion because some of them really are not sure what to make of this, they shout “No!” (Throughout the show the real children in the real audience shout at the actors on stage — spontaneously, without being cued; it is a laugh riot.)
So Ayers and her crew of painters (Russ Holm, Xander Layden, Korja Giles and Stephanie Claire) decide to pretend to be actors and give the children the show they’ve come to see. But boy, it’s certainly a different kind of Pinocchio, even though many of the familiar story elements are kept intact: Pinocchio turns into a donkey, is bamboozled by his “so called friends” Cat and Fox, is swallowed by a whale, and of course his nose grows when he lies.
Korja Giles

Russ Holm
A delightfully innovative aspect to this production is that objects lying about in the theater become imaginative props. Paint brushes, for example, become a fairy’s magic wand and donkey ears.
Ayers plays Jiminy Cricket and other characters; Holm plays Pinocchio’s papa, Gepetto, and other characters; Claire plays a stage hand or usher (and actually is an usher before the show starts), and she plays the accordion; Layden plays the naughty kid who encourages Pinocchio to skip school; and Giles is loveable, sweet, gullible and innocent as Pinocchio. It’s a marvelous cast of great actors, and for the adults in the audience they should stand as proof positive that playing in children’s theater takes every bit as much acting skill as playing Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams.
Go see it. You’ll love it. I promise.
Only four shows remaining.
Pinocchio runs Thurs.-Fri., 7 p.m., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. through May 31. Olympia Family Theater, 612 4th Ave E, Olympia, 360-570-1638.

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