Several Clark County theater schools — including Journey Theater, Riverside Performing Arts and Metropolitan Performing Arts — offer young thespians a chance to practice their craft and show off for adoring parents and grandparents.
Downtown Vancouver’s Magenta Theater is flipping that script. On Saturday afternoon, Magenta launches “Magentots,” a performance series where adoring adults show off for kiddies in the audience — or, at least, bring children to the show for some formative exposure to live, local theater.
That may seem like icing on life’s cake, but research has repeatedly demonstrated that exposure to the arts benefits children by boosting their critical thinking, vocabulary and math skills. It also expands their tolerance of differences and understanding of complex human situations .
“Our community has only ever been able to get that experience in Portland up until now,” said Jaynie Roberts, Magenta founder and artistic director. “But now, it’s here in the Couve.”
The opening Magentots show will be an interactive, comedy takeoff on the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty.” In this version our kindly storyteller is reading the tale aloud from his big book when it’s snatched away by the evil Griselda. Always stuck playing the villain, she wants to set the record straight about someone whose garbled name, she’ll have you know, was really Sleeping Betty.
Don’t worry, kids — everything turns out OK in the end, thanks to a pair of good fairies and a magical frog.
Roberts said her brain nearly fell out when company member Lauren Scher suggested adding one more activity to Magenta’s busy schedule of play production, improv comedy shows, theater classes and auditorium rentals. But Roberts wound up unable to resist, and even auditioned for the first Magentots production. She’ll appear in the role of Queen Penelope, Sleeping Beauty’s (er, Betty’s) mother.
“I’ve been hoping for years to bring live theater to Magenta for the kids,” said Scher, who directed the show. It runs for just under an hour, so kids won’t have too much time to get wiggly. The play will be best enjoyed by children ages 4 through 10, but everyone is welcome.
It’s an experimental step for Magenta Theater, Roberts said, which plans to start with a single performance and add more if ticket sales are healthy. The group hopes to stage as many as six Magentots shows per year, and bring them out of the downtown theater into different community venues.
Magenta doesn’t want to compete with existing children’s theater companies, according to a statement from the group. It just wants children to experience some top-quality, age-appropriate live theater without having to drive over a bridge. (There might just be a troll down there, you know.)
“We are open to clever suggestions as to how we might introduce all youngsters to live theater in our community,” said Roberts. “After all, they are the future of community theater.”