With educational programs, CTC emphasizes outreach to youth

Chautauqua Theater Company’s version of The Comedy of Errors is not a run-of-the-mill Shakespearean production, especially with a mermaid and bearded lady strolling from stage left to stage right.

Oh, and there’s also a gorilla.

At 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, the troupe is hosting “Family Fun Day at Chautauqua Theater Company,” a chance for families to come and see Comedy together at Bratton Theater. CTC will host pre-show activities and games, including face painting, popcorn and a meet and greet with the cast — and their circus personas — beginning at 1:15 p.m.

“It’s a riot, it’s fun; it’s a great way to be introduced to Shakespeare if [families] haven’t been introduced to Shakespeare,” said Sarah Clare Corporandy, managing director of CTC. “And if they have, it’s a wonderful new way to see it. I can imagine holding a 7-year-old’s hand and walking in the door and their mouth dropping.”

Corporandy added that although the play hasn’t been watered down, kids can easily get into the story, as it is very visual and there is a great deal of physicality.

CTC has made it a goal to educate youth on the inner workings of theater throughout the Chautauqua season.

This summer, CTC has offered five Special Studies classes on a variety of topics ranging from making masks and working on accents to rehearsing and performing a play and going behind-the-scenes of a production.

“We really … wanted to make a special effort to try and reach out to the younger community in Chautauqua,” Corporandy said. “It’s just been so special to be with these Chautauquans and to hear what they’re looking for and what their interests are.”

Last week, for the Special Studies course “Putting It Together,” which provided an in-depth look at the process of producing a play, CTC hosted five young girls who were all curious about the artistic intricacies beyond the stage. The course instructor, Chris Corporandy, had CTC professionals speak to the class about their roles in the company.

Chris gave the class a small assignment: Students had to write a few sentences about what they’ve learned from the course that may have shifted their views of theater.

One student responded, “I never realized the amount of planning that goes into set design. … I think, for me, it would be a nice balance of making small things, grand things and being part of the theater. So, I am seriously considering trying set design sometime.”

“It’s really cool to just see [the students], at such an early stage in their life, gaining such a complete understanding of what goes into a show,” Chris said.

CTC has also continued its collaboration with Children’s School and the CLSC Young Readers program. Each season, a few CTC conservatory actors bring a book to life for the kids in each program.

This year, Sarah Hartmann, CTC artistic associate, adapted the children’s book The Birdwatchers by Simon James during Week Six, in accordance with the Children’s School’s “Bird, Tree & Garden” week.

The company also discussed Shakespeare’s tragedy with the CLSC Young Readers in advance of the premiere of The Romeo & Juliet Project.

“For each of [the performances], we try to make it more than just a performance, but an interactive performance that get the kids on their feet,” Hartmann said.

With The Birdwatchers, for example, the cast of four taught the kids how to act like birds; each time that bird was mentioned in the show, the kids would perform.

“I’m so excited for what we’re going to offer next year, and who we’re going to connect with this year,” Corporandy said, “and how we’re going to teach them about this art that’s so important to us and this community.”