Gender Roles Reversed in Youth Touring Ensemble Productions of 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Cinder-FELLA' at Area Schools

10.21.10

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Playing Mercutio, Lauren Chapman, left, duels Lindsay Myers, who portrays Romeo in the SUNY Potsdam Youth Theatre Touring Company’s production of “Romeo and Juliet.”

Your average university student isn’t accustomed to waking at 4:30 a.m. for class, but for the members of the SUNY Potsdam Youth Theatre Touring Ensemble, the early-morning calls will be worth it once they hear the children’s applause.

The burgeoning actors will spend the rest of the semester honing their craft by waking up early and hitting the road to visit school districts across the North Country to perform two short plays for students from grades Pre-K to 12.

Sponsored by the College’s Department of Theatre and Dance, the ensemble prepares shows tailored toward a young audience, and tour North Country school districts to bring drama to children across Northern New York. The SUNY Potsdam Youth Theater Touring Ensemble also provides teachers in each of the schools with study guides.

An estimated 6,000 elementary, middle and high school students will be reached through 31 performances in 18 school districts in seven counties—including St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Franklin, Essex, Clinton and Oswego—this year.

The ensemble will defy expectations with its two productions this year, reversing gender roles in adaptations of “Cinder-FELLA” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

“Cinder-FELLA” is a contemporary re-telling of the classic fairy tale, with the character of Cinderella reimagined as a boy. Students will examine how the story changes when traditional gender roles are reversed, pondering whether Cinderfella can find true happiness with the Princess and what kind of obstacles the wicked stepfather will put in his way. Appropriate for students in grades Pre-K to 4, “Cinder-FELLA” promises to include a lot of laughter as the characters work it all out.

“Romeo and Juliet” is William Shakespeare’s tale of tragic love, with some contemporary twists. Edited down to one hour, the story is full of action. Like “Cinder-FELLA” there will be a switch of traditional gender roles, with Juliet played by actor Conrad Lorcher-Brown and Romeo played by actress Molly Clancy. Traditional expectations of men and women are turned on their head as we see Romeo court Juliet and sword-fight with actress Lindsay Myers playing Tybalt and cavort with friends Mercutio (played by Lauren Chapman) and Benvolio (played by Heather Horning). This production is appropriate for middle and high school students and is considered “PG-13” because of the strong language, bawdy humor and violence included in Shakespeare’s classic play.

The SUNY Potsdam Youth Theatre Touring Ensemble will present three free performances of “Cinder-FELLA” and “Romeo and Juliet” open to the general public on the College campus this semester. “Romeo and Juliet” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 5 and at noon on Saturday, Nov. 6 in Dunn Dance Theatre. “Cinder-FELLA” will be performed at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6 in the same location.

These performances are free, and the public is invited to attend.

The SUNY Potsdam Youth Theatre Touring Ensemble annually performs for thousands of area students. Providing schools with a no-cost alternative to other touring shows, the mission of this company is to bring thought-provoking, quality theatre to young people of all ages. Each year, the group rehearses a scripted play for middle- and high-schoolers and creates their own play for elementary audiences. The two shows are linked with a common theme; this year’s considers our expectations of men and women through the lens of very common love stories.

Each performance includes a “talk back” session at the end of the show, where the audience can ask actors about the themes or the process of creating theatre.

Community Performance Series supports the Youth Theatre Touring Ensemble by providing scheduling and administrative services.

For more information about the SUNY Potsdam Department of Theatre and Dance, visit http://www.potsdam.edu/academics/AAS/Theatre/index.cfm.

Founded in 1816, and located on the outskirts of the beautiful Adirondack Park, the State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 100 colleges. SUNY Potsdam currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its handcrafted education, challenging liberal arts and sciences core, excellence in teacher training and leadership in the performing and visual arts.