Take the Stage
Each Thursday morning, they line up across the stage in the Epworth United Methodist Church fellowship hall. Dressed in T-shirts, shorts and beach sandals, the "actors" in the Rehoboth Summer Children's Theatre, within about an hour's time, will come up with characters, devise a plot, come up with some dialogue, and act out their original production to the applause of their parents and grandparents.
Steve and Elise Seyfried have been bringing their acting talents to Rehoboth Beach for 20 years, performing there and across lower Delaware in a number of children's plays each summer.
The Oreland, Pa. couple perform most or all of the parts, with help from apprentices, young pre-teens and teens who have attended acting classes with them.
The workshops, meanwhile, offer younger children a glimpse into the world of drama. There are two sessions, one for children ages 5 to 6 and one for older kids, ages 7 to 12. The younger children have fun with storytelling and games designed to let them test the waters of acting, while the older ones get to dive more deeply into the process.
A 7- to 12-year-old session on Thursday, July 25, 2002 started, as they all do, with children shouting out potential characters -- everything from a worm to "a floor tile with a big nose," is offered. Then the list is whittled down to about eight characters.
A main character in this day's play will be a centaur, a mythical half-man, half-horse which is initially mispronounced "senator" by one little boy -- bringing laughter from the adults in the audience.
The process then moves toward plot development, with Seyfried leading the children through establishment of heros and villains -- because every good tale needs those -- and a problem that needs to be solved.
This day's play ends up with the "evil" centaur and his sidekick, the carpet, doing battle with a "good" cat and his rabbit helper.
Along the way, the cat traps the centaur after the cat is accidentally turned into a "big wig" and a dragon stops the centaur by freezing him. In the end, the flying carpet turns all the animals into centaurs, but they are returned to their former identities by a helpful doctor. All this with no props except extremely active imaginations. The centaur characters are actually two actors -- one playing the head and one playing ...well, the other end.
Guess which end most of the kids wanted to play?
It's quite a busy hour, as you can see. Who says Sussex County is a cultural void?
Steve Seyfried said after this week's sessions that he's been conducting the workshops in Rehoboth Beach for about 15 years. "Hopefully, they get the idea," he said. "The idea," of course, is that plays are a way of telling a story, and like any story, they involve settings, characters and a plot. As a a mother of a soon-to-be second grader, it was gratifying to see Seyfried reviewing many of the same concepts she learned in school last year about the elements of stories.
Seyfried said over the years he's seen children return from week to week and from year to year. "The goal," he said, "is to build up a talent pool" he and his wife can put to work in their summer children's plays. While many of the children are just visiting coastal Sussex for a week or so, some are local kids, a few of whom have gone on to "graduate" from the workshops to the apprentice program.
The Rehoboth Summer Children's Theatre is performing a series of plays, including "Peter Pan," "Puss in Boots," "Little Goldy and the Three Riding Bears" and "Snow White," all with original scripts by the Seyfrieds featuring broad physical humor and comedy the whole family can enjoy.
The plays and classes will continue through the third week in August.
For more information on either, check the Rehoboth Summer Children's Theatre web site or call 227-6766.
The workshops are held in the Epworth United Methodist Church, 20 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach; the cost is $9 per session. The apprentice program is held at Cape Henlopen High School, Lewes; the cost is $45.
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