Company to feature Relaxed Performance, and ASL & Audio Description performance as well as book readings in local schools
This spring, children of all ages are invited to enter into the jungle as the DeSales University Act 3 Children’s Theatre Company presents The Jungle Book by Vera Morris. This one-hour children’s show, brimming with adventure and antics, will run from March 19 through April 23 in the Schubert Theatre of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts on the DeSales University campus in Center Valley, PA. Join the young, jungle boy Mowgli as he experiences a wild string of adventures from escaping a monkey’s birthday party to outwitting a treasure-guarding cobra, and even fighting for the future of the jungle against the ferocious tiger Shere Khan. With his family of animal friends including the bear Baloo and the panther Bagheera, Mowgli will learn about community, bravery, and what it really means to be a leader.
Performances are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays with shows starting at 10 A.M. and additional 12:30PM performances on select dates. Tickets are $12.00 for adults and $11.00 for children, with special rates for groups of 10 or larger. Children under 3 are free, but reservations are required.
These shows sell out quickly but there are seats remaining for the following performances:
- March 19 @ 10AM
- March 21 @ 10AM
- March 21 @ 12:30PM
- March 24 @ 10AM
- March 26 @ 12:30PM
- March 28 @ 10AM
- March 28 @ 12:30PM
- March 31 @ 12:30PM
- April 2 @ 12:30PM (Relaxed Performance)
- April 4 @ 10AM
- April 4 @ 12:30PM
- April 18 @ 10AM (ASL & Audio Description)
A new addition to this year’s performance schedule is that of a Relaxed Performance on April 2 at 12:30 PM. This sensory-friendly show creates a judgment-free and inclusive environment for patrons with a wide range of sensory and communication differences, including individuals on the autism spectrum, young children, and people of all abilities and ages who would benefit from a relaxed experience.
Act 3 Children’s Theatre has been entertaining over 84,200 children and families in the Lehigh Valley since 2003. Teachers share this delightful experience with their students, and parents provide their children with a fun alternative to technology. The Jungle Book is the final project of the 2020 senior theatre class at DeSales University. These students take on the artistic and administrative roles of a professional theatre company. Other than performing in the show, students also take on the various responsibilities of producing a show—company management, direction, box office, marketing, and publicity, and designing and constructing the sets, props, and costumes for the play.
Jonathan Cruz, a musical theatre major with a focus in dance performance, is the director for this production. “The fact that DeSales has the opportunity for students to direct, period, is incredible,” says Cruz. “This experience has taught me about community and working with other voices. I’ve learned about how to talk to other designers, how to work with a group of people and hear their ideas, and then filter them through to my own vision, as well. Which is also just a good human experience to have, not even theatre related. The thing I wanted to do most with this show is to inspire kids, specifically. This also automatically helps adults to become nostalgic about their childhood and remember what it was like to be a kid again. I want kids to take away the fact that art is art. The idea of play is super important in this show, especially considering the fact that our set is a literal jungle gym. They’re going to take away that theatre is for everyone, and theatre is inclusive always with gender, race, anything.”
Caitlin McCabe takes on the role of company manager for this production, and Meaghan McKiernan, upcoming stage manager for DeSales’ The Sound of Music, is the stage manager for this production, as well. Costume Designer Meaghan Rossi, fills the stage with vibrant costumes that mimic real jungle animals. Brandon Carcella, Technical Director, and Chris Clark, Scenic Designer, have outdone themselves with this three-storied set, with special features such as monkey bars, trampolines, and a slide! Kaia Merrell adds to the beauty with her ethereal lighting designs, and sound designer Sarabeth Sabella aids in the audience’s transport into the jungle, creating a truly immersive experience. Choreographer Megan Fry keeps the energy up, especially with the show-stopping monkey dance, and highlights all of the original music written for the show by Music Director, Cathy Ritter.
Allie Vasquez, who most recently appeared in Working: The Musical, leads the show as the man-cub Mowgli. She seconds Cruz’s sentiment about inclusivity, especially since she is playing what is typically a ‘boy’ part. “Traditionally, a lot of young boy roles in theatre are played by women,” says Vazquez. “Just think of Peter Pan. But, unlike Peter Pan, Mowgli doesn’t necessarily have to be a boy. Mowgli, though he’s written as a boy, even if you took away his gender, he’s just a kid who’s trying to find his place in a world that is typically not his own. The message is about finding your tribe. It’s about blood doesn’t necessarily mean that’s just family, blood doesn’t define what a family is, because a family is who supports you, who cares for you, who looks out for you, and you want nothing but the best for that other person. We’ve got this fantasy world that is still an example of the real world where some kids don’t feel like they belong, and kids will come and feel like they belong. It’s not about animals versus humans, it’s about love and compassion.”
Arrianna Daniels, whom you might recognize from the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival from shows like Shakespeare for Kids and upcoming as Charlotte in this summer’s production of Charlotte’s Web, plays Shere Khan. When asked how she will portray a traditionally scary role, she responded: “I was actually lost on how to play Shere Khan because it’s the villain character, but it’s a kid’s show, so I started thinking of Jim Carrey’s The Grinch, because it’s the bad guy that no one likes, but he’s just misunderstood. And you laugh at him the whole time, so a lot of the crazy attributes that I bring to Shere Khan are reminiscent of that.” She also explains that the music is one of her favorite parts of this show. “Music is a universal language, and it can be used to relate to other people despite your differences. I think that you can’t have a kid’s show without live music. Music is something that helps kids dive into that world and brings them into an understanding that we all know and love.”
Dennis Razze, Theatre Professor at DeSales University, serves once again as advisor to the senior students on this project. “Act 3 is a unique experience in our program,” says Razze. “It is the capstone of a theatre student’s training where the seniors get to utilize all of the many skills they have learned to form a theatre company and fully produce a quality children’s theatre production that will reach over 6000 children with 23 performances of a show they have directed, designed, managed, and marketed themselves.”
This spring, the Act 3 Children’s Theatre Company will provide a free benefit performance to over 200 special-needs and under-served children in the Lehigh Valley community. DeSales University and various charitable donations from the community provide the financial support for this special engagement.
In an effort to improve accessibility for all patrons, the April 18, 10:00 AM performance will feature the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for patrons who are deaf or hearing impaired and Audio Descriptions for patrons who are blind or visually impaired. During Audio Described performances, all action and physical appearances are described live through a headset.
The Jungle Book will be performed in the Schubert Theatre of the fully accessible Labuda Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets and information, please call the box office at 610-282-3192, or order tickets online at www.desales.edu/act1.