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Alexandra Bailly reads “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” to the children of the Mother Goose Storybook Theatre. After learning the story, the kids put on a stage performance at the Fire House Theatre.

Kids bring fairy tales to life in Grand Forks

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As home to the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre, the Fire House Theatre is used to hosting professional plays from a professional cast.

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But for an hour on Tuesday mornings, that changes.

Now in its second year, the theater is host to the Mother Goose Storybook Theatre. The sessions allow children ages 3 to 6 to engage in guided plays as they explore children’s books by using costumes, props, stage makeup and the Fire House Theatre stage.

The program was piloted last summer, Kathy Coudle-King said. When she became the executive director of the Greater Grand Forks Theatre, she wanted to get all members of the community involved, not just adults.

“When I came aboard three years ago, I took the word ‘community’ to heart, so we’ve really made a concentrated effort to reach all members of our community. We had senior theater, so it just seemed natural to have a preschool theater as well to run the full gambit.”

The program currently has 13 registered children, meeting once a week. The children begin by reading a fable, such as “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” After that, the kids begin rehearsing for their show at the end of the hour, with each kid starring as one of the animals the old lady eats.

After rehearsing, the kids make their way up to the makeup room where the three adult supervisors add makeup to make them look like their respective characters; they add whiskers for the cat and spots for the cow.

The hour concludes with the kids acting out the play in front of their families on the Fire House Theatre stage.

“What’s special about this program is that we always throw the lights on, we put makeup on them, and you’re getting the whole theatrical experience,” Couldle-King said. “It’s not in a classroom or a gym; it’s truly in a theater.”

Coudle-King said she and the Storybook Theatre look for fables with a lot of repetition so the children can more easily learn the stories they’re performing. The theater has chosen to perform “The Three Little Pigs,” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and other selections from Aesop’s fables.

The Storybook Theatre has received a grant from the United Way for the fall. For every play the theatre does in the fall, United Way will donate a book to the children. The hope, Coudle-King said, is to not just teach the children the play, but also how to read and recognize words.

Coudle-King said she hopes the theater program will teach kids the same types of skills that are transferable to other parts of their lives.

“With theater, (maybe) one percent goes on to do professional theater, if that,” she said. “It’s kind of like hoping for pro football. But, the skills you learn in sports are applicable to the workplace: teamwork, cooperation, confidence, that sort of stuff. The same goes for theater. Skills that you learn like speaking out, not being timid in a meeting, making eye contact by facing the audience — all of those things that are transferable to success in the workplace are in school and can be learned on a stage as well.”

Coudle-King also said she felt the program helped kids break out of their shell and socialize with other kids.

“It’s also for people who were shy,” she said. “You’re not yourself when you’re on stage. You put that hat on, and you’re a bird or whatever. You’re no longer a little kid who everyone is looking at. They’re looking at you in a good way.”

In the future, Coudle-King said the Mother Goose Storybook Theatre may look to partner with a daycare in order to make the program more accessible for parents and kids. The program will be offered again in the fall.

Call Rupard at (701) 780-1122; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1122; or send email to wrupard@gfherald.com

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Wade Rupard
Wade Rupard is a features reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. Rupard is a 2014 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is originally from Normal, Ill. 
(701) 780-1122
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