The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 27, 2012

Princess must be rescued in children’s play

By Kevin McClintock
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — In the end, it’s all about the kids.

Area school children will be in for a treat when they visit Taylor Performing Arts Center this weekend to witness a play about a big, pink dragon.

Each year, students of the school’s award-winning theater department perform fun and funny skits for area school children, both to entertain and help blossom the love of theater and the arts inside each and every one of them.

“The Pale Pink Dragon,” written by Phyllis McCallum, will be presented at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

More than 2,150 students from 21 schools will watch the two weekend performances. The students invited will range from pre-school age to third grade.

James Lile, who joined the school’s theater department in late 2004, directs this fun and interactive children’s production.

The play was chosen because he participated in a production of it when he was in high school. He said he remembered it fondly.

“We take seriously the opportunity we have to create a first impression for some of these children,” Lile said. “Now and again a student starting at Southern will tell us that their first visit to a theater was when their school brought them (to one of the university’s productions).”

Filled with love and enchantment, this charming fantasy children’s play script focuses on Pinkie, a princess from the Kingdom of Caladar, who has disappeared and presumed devoured by a pale pink dragon, who lurks inside a spooky forest. A brave prince Ñ Hal Ñ sets out with his bumbling squire and the King, along with the rather pompous-acting Chamberlain and Pinkie’s fierce white cat, to destroy the dragon.

There are moments during the play, Lile said, when characters share information with the audience, and even ask for their opinions.

Dr. Lile has a wealth of teaching, acting, directing and design experience gathered over the last three decades from schools and theaters in Texas, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. Theater, he said, is a way of life.

“I enjoy directing childrens’ plays very much and have done several,” he said. “It is a very immediate and honest kind of theater. You’re going to know what the kids think and you’re going to know it quickly. Actors must create characters that are a bit larger than life Ñ physically and vocally Ñ and be especially conscious of the need to be clear storytellers.

MSSU students participating in the play include Kelly Campbell, Mollie Sanders Ashley Trotnic, Jimmy Zerkel, Devri Brock, Jacob West, Abby Quinn, Ariel Horton, Trenten Henderson, Chelsea Jones, Amber Julian, Sam Hydar and Abby Railsback.

“Presenting work for children is very rewarding,” Lile said, “We get to see their excitement as they enter the theater, share in their participation during the performance, and enjoy their reactions as they leave. We know that we have made a difference in some of those young lives. There’s nothing quite like it.”

Want to go?

Admission for “The Pale Pink Dragon” is $1 for students, faculty and staff, $1 for adults and 50 cents for children 12 and under. The Southern Theatre box office hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Details: 417-625-3190.