Theater company plays off kids’ imaginations at Children’s School

Kreable Young | Staff Photographer
Chelsea Williams, Oge Agulué, Jonathan Majors and Chasten Harman perform a short play for Children’s School students on Wednesday.

Last Wednesday at Children’s School, “shapes” were made in the form of alligators and oceans, and with an artist’s paintbrush instead of a poet’s pen.

A part of the Chautauqua Theater Company’s annual outreach initiative, five conservatory actors — Jonathan Majors, Chelsea Williams, Chasten Harman, Kate Eastman and Oge Agulué — performed a miniature play written for the occasion. Called Lily Brown, the play riffs off what was last week’s theme: “wonder” and “imagination.”

And the children’s imaginations were piqued.

Marlee Koenigsberg, CTC artistic associate, began the play by asking kids if they knew the song “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Most recognized it well, and willingly demonstrated the tune.

Kreable Young | Staff Photographer
Children stand up front to act out animals with the conservatory actors.

“Great,” Koenigsberg said. “Now, did you all know that there is a star in my body?”

There were confused looks all around.

Koenigsberg stood on one foot, stretched out the other, and formed jazz hands.

“A star,” she said.

The actors were brought forward for further clarification. Majors pantomimed a circus juggler. Williams imitated a “dripping” ice cream cone. Eastman galloped around the stage area, whinnying.

“See?” Koenigsberg said. “It’s through these different shapes that we can use our imagination.”

In the “wondrous” story of Lily Brown — narrated by Eastman — Harman played the precocious Lily, a little girl who paints, pulling every bit of inspiration she can from her little brother (Majors), her family and even to the “planets” of our solar system. From rolling “ocean breezes” to chasing “antelopes,” the character Lily’s inspiration “changed with her heart” until she emptied her well of imagination, bringing her mind back to her family, baby brother Majors, too.

After the play, Koenigsberg asked the children for their own interpretations of the actors’ bit.

Kreable Young | Staff Photographer
Children laugh as the Chautauqua Theater Company conservatory actors perform Lily Brown

“So what did you all see?” she asked the 4s.

“A gorilla,” McKenzie Foster said.

“Oceans,” Clare Petrov said.

“Batman,” Tristan Roth said.

Koenigsberg then asked the audience if they could demonstrate their own acting abilities. Anna Calvin, 5, who stood on one foot and stretched out her arms, gave her best “flamingo.” Connor Ewalt, 3, surprised the group with his “crocodile,” clapping his hands together vertically. When 4-year-old Cassidy Dubois was asked to do her own interpretation of a monkey, she politely declined.

“I’m not an animal,” she said. “I am a princess.”

What seemed to be a simple morning play turned out to be highly influential on the little members of Children’s School. As the conservatory actors were readying to leave for rehearsal, two boys were shaking their crocodile tails near the bookshelf. The 4s were already galloping on all fours back to the Red Room, their teachers following after them.

This, Koenigsberg said, is representative of what she and the cast of Lily Brown hoped to inspire with their presentation.

“We were just here to show what kind of things we do as actors,” she said. “Which apparently is just a bunch of animal sounds and crawling around on the floor.”