the national children of the world
One of the greatest opportunities that we have as lovers and players of the theatre I think is to nurture the creativity, curiosity and love of play that is intrinsic to all children. I truly believe that children who are exposed to the theatre’s ability to ignite their imaginations, both in seeing riveting productions suitable for their age and sensibilities, and being able to participate in plays in their school and in their community, as well as having the ability to attend drama camp or drama school enriches children’s experience with the arts and ensures that regardless of whether they grow up to be butchers or bakers or candlestick makers, the theatre will always have a special place in their lives and in their hearts.
Not only, of course, is cultivating a positive relationship with the theatre building the audiences of tomorrow, but it can be a wonderful, and sometimes life-altering experience for children as they build confidence, channel energy, learn about trust and are encouraged to explore every nook and cranny of their creative minds to fill an empty stage with hours’ worth of fun. Of course, there is that old adage, “Those who can do and those who can’t teach” and in the theatre, I think that it is the most exciting and the most beneficial when children (or anyone, for that matter) have the opportunity to be taught by those who do work in the professional theatre and who have undeniable expertise in the subjects that they are teaching.
Last Friday afternoon I attended an extremely inspiring production of The Paper Bag Princess presented by a group of young people between the ages of seven and fifteen who exemplified perfectly for me the magic that happens when prolific, youthful imaginations are guided by two exorbitantly multitalented theatre artists who are then in turn guided by the exuberance and joy of eight wondrous kids. It’s called The National Theatre School of the World, one of the newest ventures from The National Theatre of the World, the theatre company that uses improvisation, theatrical proficiency, playwriting and constant, sometimes dangerous, experimentation to create their shows Impromptu Splendor, The Carnegie Hall Show and Fiasco Playhouse. The National Theatre School of the World is headed by the wonderfully gifted Naomi Wright, who directed The Paper Bag Princess, freely adapted from the Robert Munsch story of the same name. Ron Pederson, Co-Artistic Producer of the National Theatre of the World also led the class in an introduction to Improvisation, using theatre games that are not only very fun to play, but also skilfully set the foundation for Improv upon which these children will continue to build as long as they keep playing.
The National Children of the World are all marvellous performers. We were given a glimpse first into their Improv prowess, with Ron leading three games, Machine, What Are You Doing and Yes, And. The children are all quick and inventive, they work well together as a team, they are quick to throw themselves into characters with great physical and vocal work. The Paper Bag Princess was an utterly engaging piece of theatre, where the National Children of the World showed vibrant commitment to all their lines, an astute sense of both comic timing and comic sensibility and most perceptively, a genuine love for performance that shone in their every movement making them one of the most captivating collectives I have seen in a long time. I honestly mean that.
The National Children of the World reminded me, with their joyful innocence, that, really, the play’s the thing. I am simultaneously envious that these children were given the opportunity to learn from two very smart and very skilled actors of esteem here in Toronto but also envious that Naomi and Ron were given such glorious, inspiring children to work with, who they undoubtedly learned from as well. In short, The National Theatre School of the World is magical. If you have children between the age of seven and fifteen that you think may adore learning about acting and Improv and running amok on the stage, please visit this website and stay tuned for more information.
The National Theatre of the World’s newest theatrical romp, Fiasco Playhouse, a multidisciplinary collaboration of art, genius and experimentation takes place starting tomorrow, August 5th at 9:00pm at the First Ever Summerworks Performance Bar (The Lower Ossington Theatre, GROUND FLOOR. 100A Ossington Avenue). Fiasco Playhouse runs every night at the Summerworks Festival beginning at 9:00pm. It is a PWYC event and features different guest artists every single night. The National Theatre of the World is also currently snazzifying the COVER of Toronto’s NOW Magazine. You’ll want to pick up a copy and CHECK EM OUT.