John Szablewski Previews

First Look: ‘Stellaluna’ at Theatre of Youth

The cast of “Stellaluna” rehearses with puppets.

Getting children to enjoy the performing arts is a challenge in itself, but when you are able to perform content that is familiar to children, chances are your job will be a little easier when it comes to keeping their attention. Books and stories that children may be exposed to in schools tend to do the trick, especially if you are Theatre of Youth company. TOY celebrates child literacy by incorporating reading lists from area schools into their considerations for their theatrical season of shows. Most of the shows that they perform come from a book as the source material. One book, that has been entertaining children for over the last twenty years is “Stellaluna” by Janell Cannon, and TOY opens their production of the beloved children’s classic, adapted by Saskia Janse, with music by Guus Ponsioen, on May 5.

“We always like to conclude our season with a show for our younger audiences,” says Meg Quinn, Artistic Director of TOY, “this is a time that the younger students aren’t testing, and there is some time for field trips to the theatre.” “Stellaluna” is aimed for children in Kindergarten through second grade.

When a baby fruit bat attaches herself to her mother to learn how to fly, Stellaluna is exposed to new worlds, but after an owl attacks her mother one night, Stellaluna is separated from her mom, and falls into a bird’s nest in a nearby tree. While she is there, she becomes close with her new feathered friends, but is told that she has to act like they do. So Stellaluna tries to be a bird, when in fact, she is very different.

“This is a fun, light, and sweet story,” say Quinn, “it is a happy play with a great message.”

Connecting with the characters in any play is always important for the audience to engage in the show. “The youngest kids will identify with the characters in this story, as well as the circumstances. The theme of ‘it is okay to be different than others, and that it is still possible to be friends,’ is one that rings true here.”

Local director Kyle LoConti helms this production. “I wanted to bring in a female director for this show, because I believe that the story lends itself to a motherly presence, and I think that a woman directing it would bring that out in the show,” says Quinn.

The production utilizes an all female cast, telling the story through the use of puppets. “Adam Kreutinger designed and built these wonderful puppets that bring the story to life, and make it fun for the children as well.”

Kreutinger, an elementary art teacher in the Orchard Park school district, has become a local celebrity of sorts for being the ‘go to’ guy for all things puppet related. He has designed and built the puppets for many local productions, including TOY’s 2017 / 2018 opener “Bunnicula.”

“Adam is really great about working collaboratively and creating and designing puppets that suit our needs and wants in our productions,” says Quinn.

TOY believes that all children should be exposed to the theatre at a young age, and they hope that this show will spark an interest that will continue as students get older. “The story, and the puppets, and the performances will all come together, and we are sure that it will leave a lasting impression on the children.”

“Stellaluna” opens May 5 and runs until June 2, 2018. For more information, click here.

Promotional Consideration Paid For By The Theatre Alliance Of Buffalo.