Students perform first children’s theater production at UB
Dr. Seuss’ 'The Cat in the Hat' performed as part of the Department of Theatre and Dance’s annual Student Directed Series
Coloring pages and Dr. Seuss books covered tables outside of the Katharine Cornell Theatre Friday, as children and families waited in line to see the first UB-led performance from an iconic cat.
UB students performed a theater production of Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat” at the theater on Sept. 27-28 as part of the Department of Theatre and Dance’s annual Student Directed Series. The series gives students the opportunity to produce and direct a show on their own and this production was the first-ever children’s theater production at UB, based on the 1957 children’s book of the same name by Dr. Seuss.
Jill Anderson, a senior music theatre major, directed the production and said it is her first major directing experience, which was difficult but “totally worth it.”
“I think that directing [this production] has been incredibly challenging yet fun,” Anderson said. “The cast has been so incredible, and they are constantly giving me ideas [while] I’m giving them ideas. It’s been great in that sense but incredibly hard [with] all the work and time I’ve put into it, but totally worth it after seeing the show tonight.”
Anderson is also an education minor, which gave her the idea to do a children’s production last summer.
“I have an extreme interest in how theater can affect children’s lives,” Anderson said. “[While] I was watching [the show on Friday], I sat in front of two young boys who laughed through the entire show. … For a lot of them, this was probably the first live theater performance they’ve ever seen and I think seeing their reactions tonight has by far been my favorite aspect.”
Steven Zehler, a senior theatre design and technology major, also noted the significance of the young crowd, as it expands the theatre’s audience past its typical boundaries.
“The fact that [the show] starts at [6 p.m.], the fact that we’re allowing kids to come and the fact that we got so much marketing for it was a huge deal,” Zehler said.
For this show, Zehler held many roles, including lighting designer, projection designer and sound designer. But one of the most noticeable things he worked on was his video work, projected on the new projection screen at the back of the stage. The videos incorporated the art style from the original book and brought the images to life through animation.
While Zehler brought the story to life on the projection screen, sophomore biomedical engineering major Madeline Podaras helped bring it to life on stage. She played the role of a kitten and helped the Cat in the Hat cause chaos.
“[The kittens] are like the stage crew on steroids,” Podaras said. “We add the things that are balanced on the Cat, we throw stuffed animals on stage and we help [Thing 1 and Thing 2] make more of a mess. We are a catalyst for chaos.”
Podaras said cast members could go as “over the top” as they wanted, and she had more freedom as an actor in this show than most productions.
But like Anderson and Zehler, Podaras considered the child-filled crowd to be the most unique and rewarding part of the show.
“When you expose children to theater early on, it opens up their mind. And you can see that this form of media connects with them on a deeper level than like with a book, TV or phone because it’s real,” Podaras said. “It’s so much more rewarding when, after the show, you see the kids and they are so happy.”
Anastasia Wilds is an assistant arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @AnastasiaWilds