Samford’s theatre for youth program will present "The Biggest Little House in the Forest" Sept. 15-19 as part of the Emma Taylor Theatre for Youth Series. The mainstage production was canceled due to audience restrictions and COVID-19 limitations, but students and faculty found a creative solution to present this story.
“This is a one-person performance using puppets and lots of imagination. We are reaching out to local schools and sharing the live performances,” director of the Theatre for Youth program Laura Byland said.
Schools interested in accessing the show should contact Byland at firstname.lastname@example.org. Showtimes are 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 15 and 17 and 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 16 and 19.
Students involved with the project started working on the show over Zoom meetings this summer. Sophomore Amy Ethington is the sole actor and Audrey Myers is the director of the show. The production will feature puppets and Ethington while Myers and a stage manager will have behind the scenes roles that allow them to safely interact with each other.
"This has been a rehearsal process full of learning and discovery," Ethington said. "It’s been so cool to learn all these new skills like switching voices at the blink of an eye and creating believable and distinctive movement and action for each puppet. I am the storyteller in this show, but I’m also a character who interacts and is in the puppets’ world, or rather they are in mine. This show’s target age is 3-8 so there’s a lot of audience interaction and engagement and all of that comes from me as the storyteller."
The production is based on a children’s book by Djemma Bider and tells the story of Bernice the butterfly who finds an abandoned house in the woods and decides to make it her own. Soon, she is joined by friends in the forest until there is no more room and they work together to make a home for them all. It is a story of family and friendships that the students hope allows the audience to explore the magical world of puppets, imagination and friendships.
Samford’s Theatre for Youth program allows students to become teaching artists but also explore all aspects of theatre. Graduates pursue careers in acting, theatre production and management, teaching and child development and ministry. While at Samford, students participate in outreach locally and internationally to gain hands-on experience working in theatre and with young audiences. Ethington said that she chose Samford's Theatre for Youth degree because it allowed her to get training in performance, directing and teaching.
According to Byland, Samford University is uniquely positioned with this degree, “As one of the only Christian universities in the country to offer theatre for youth, we help students integrate their passion for theatre with their calling to work with young people,” she said.
The program is accredited by NAST and is now in its fifth year at Samford.