By CATHERINE ELLERTON
Moapa Valley Progress
The short story by Hans Christian Andersen about the Prince who travelled the world to find a Princess worthy to marry him by feeling a pea under 20 mattresses came to life in a production conceived by Michael McGill of the Missoula Children’s Theatre.
For 45 years, this theatre touring group has traveled the world, visiting every state in the United States, 17 countries and has worked with more than 65,000 children each year introducing them to the magic of the theatre.
This year the little red wagon brought to the Valley Daja Middleton and Nick Spencer. These two theatre production people handle the costumes, the sets, the directing responsibilities, acting and various workshops.
Daja is from North Carolina and received her degree in Theatre Education and Performance from No. Carolina Central University. Nick is from Tennessee and received his Theatre Degree from Transylvania University. Yes – Transylvania University – this one in Lexington, Kentucky.
These professional actors audition for this job and, over the period of one year, travel to at least 40 schools in a region – this one includes California, Nevada and Utah.
They roll into a town, hold auditions with local kids for each part, conduct 5 days of rehearsals and present two performances to the community at the end. In their free time, they conduct theatre workshops in the local schools. This year they guided the MVHS theatre students through make-up (where they transformed Thomas Goddard into a lion), improvisation and acting theory.
It is amazing to see the results of the auditions. The producers take approximately 87 students to test them in voice projection, expression and following instructions. They then build their cast of 65; plus four students who assist in the technical aspects.
Soon the rehearsals begin and the story takes shape. Two villages – Glacierdom and Riverdom – are filled with their unique citizens – Storm King and Queen, Jack Frost, Icicle Sharpeners, King and Queen Size, River Runners, Flower Gardeners, Phony Princesses and the Dust Bunnies among other notables – which includes THE pea.
The Leprechaun clan are the facilitators (or Irishtators) of the stage action. There are singing and dancing interludes accompanied by pianist Tyler Holmes which continue the story line.
The Prince of Glacierdom has begun a quest to find a suitable Princess. There are several road blocks along the way….the Phony Princesses keep pursuing the Prince until he presents a test which they fail. Jack Frost keeps freezing the river so it can’t run anymore. (What is a river that can’t run and is out of shape? A LAKE!)
The people of the two Kingdoms continue to fight and a challenge is thrown out that a real Princess will be able to feel the pea through 21 mattresses.
Soon, the story begins to spread its message. It is better to be kind to all and to say please and thank you instead of fighting; it is better to help each other and work together.
The Riverdom Princess objects to sleeping on the mattresses with her friend, Pea, under them all. “It is wrong for Pea to suffer all night. Peas have feelings. Just because we look different, we are all equal and we should see all with the Golden Rule.”
Soon the audience is drawn into the action and asked to vote on three wishes. Should the Prince and Princess marry – NO! Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink – learn to Share. And the Pea is elected President of the Kingdom.
These programs are made possible by the MV Performing Arts Council and through the generous support of benefactors and are sponsored in part by Individual Partners for the Arts which include Nevada Arts Council, America First Credit Union, Grant and Laurel Bushman, MV Telephone Co., Dr. Lance Robertson and the MV Chamber of Commerce.