Curtain Opens On Lane Library's Readers' Theatre

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By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, August 4, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

HAMPTON -- There's something new coming to the Lane Memorial Library, thanks to a group of Hampton students in grades 5-9 who like to put words into actions.

It's Readers' Theatre (RT), an informal program that is part read-aloud story time and part performing arts — and one which promises to be wholly entertaining.

So how did this all come about?

"I sort of threw it out there and there was some interest," says Teen Services Librarian, Cheryl French, who facilitates the library's Youth Advisory Board and the young adults who comprise it.

French had initially conducted a survey with members of the advisory board, and based on the results decided "to give it a try as part of our teen summer programming." French is "keeping the group informal and flexible, in the hopes that we will be able to work around the participants' busy school schedules and extracurricular activities."

The premiere Readers' Theatre performance is scheduled for Tuesday, August 8 at 4 p.m. at the library. While the program is open to all ages, it is especially geared toward students entering Kindergarten and on through fourth grade.

The setting is simple: Working with "scripts," the readers (with their previously-assigned parts) will use _expression, tone of voice and, at times, props to tell the selected stories. French figures the read-aloud tales will run about 10-20 minutes each.

For the first RT at the Lane Library, there will be two featured scripts adapted for readers' theatre by author and story "reteller" Aaron Shepard: "The Legend of Slappy Hooper" (an American tall tale) and "Three Sideways Stories from Wayside School" (from Louis Sachar's original series of novellas).

This is definitely a program with a purpose.

"From the audience's perspective, Readers' Theatre is like listening to a full-cast audio story, or sitting in on an old-fashioned radio story," explains French. "The audience can see the readers, but their imagination still has to fill in all of the blanks. No scenery, no memorized lines, minimal props — the focus is on the words of the story and how they sound."

That's not the only creative benefit to this type of presentation. It works both ways.

"From the reader's perspective," says French, "RT is a chance to play with _expression, bring a story to life with one's voice. It also develops oral reading and public speaking skills."

The RT troupe currently has seven participants, ranging in age from 10-14. According to French, "The number of readers is likely to fluctuate from presentation to presentation, depending upon schedules, but I hope to maintain a core group of at least five."

French says participants of all ages on both sides of the script can benefit from the program, be they beginning readers on up to college-age students.

"And for the theatre geek within," says French, "it is a great opportunity to act without worrying about blocking, costume changes, tripping over scenery, or memorizing one's lines."

That doesn't mean there's no preparation involved, although "time requirements are minimal," says French, "just one or two meetings per performance to select scripts, assign roles, and rehearse reading."

As the troupe develops (newcomers are welcome), the program may be expanded to include original scripts and adaptations of folk tales, says French, as well as short puppet shows and more traditional story read-alouds, in addition to existing readers theatre scripts.

Check out Readers' Theatre at the Lane Memorial Library beginning on Tuesday, August 8 at 4 p.m. For more information, call Cheryl French at (603) 926-4729.

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