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In only my second Theatrical experience since before I can remember. I found myself seated in the Malcom Field theater of Saginaw Valley State University. The Malcom Theater is a very well designed stage for this theatrical performance. It was just large enough to express all of this plays theatrical elements, yet not too large to cause distraction.
For about the price of a typical movie ticket I received an hour and ten minutes of comical entertainment. The production presented on October 14 at seven o clock was a theatrical performance called The Elves And The Shoemaker. An adaptation of the classic Grimm’s fairy tale.
The author of the The Elves And The Shoemaker renown author Ric Averill, who also known for writing several other big name shows such as Frankenstein.
Averill’s experience in play writing is shown throughout this dramatic themed children’s play. I believe The Elves And The Shoemaker’s script was written very well to appeal to its designated audience. It is obvious this play was written for a younger audience. With themes based around loss, struggle, acceptance, and new beginnings all of which are presented from a child’s perspective. The major conflict of the play being the struggle to make shoes for a deadline.
I believe the writer choose a Shoe making craft because it would be simple enough for the younger audience to get into.
It is consideration like that in the script that forms its overall intentions. While the dominate tone of the play was serious, there were more than a couple comedic lines. Most of the plays comedic relief ironically came from the main character of whom arguably was having the roughest time. I believe the author implemented the main character having the most struggle as well as being the “funny character” as a tactic to engage the younger audience into this story.
A tactic I feel took a very good direction. Myself being twenty years old was engaged in what this character would do next. My only complaint about the script was the presence of apparent dead spots. A couple segments in the production which gave you that feeling of wanting something else to happen, mostly in the beginning. I think these spots were only present in the attempt to build up the whole story. If I, a twenty year old guy who must pay attention on the ideals that my grade depends on it, am wondering off to other distant thoughts, imagine an eight year old kid trying to focus.
I think some of these areas could have been approached differently. Other than a couple distracting plot advancements I couldn’t help but notice how fast the hour past as I read deeper into the actually story of this play. As with anything in life, the foundation is always the most important part of a theater performance. The script and storytelling really stand out at The Elves And The Shoemaker’s core. The directing of this production really stood out to me. It would not be easy as a director to express the effects of magic, elves, and out of body experiences. All of which is presented with great creativity in this production.
Personally, as I read the read the script I sat there wondering to myself “ how are they going to pull that off? ” as I watched the play I couldn’t help but feel satisfied in way these mystical things were expressed. Not only did the director do a good job with the fairytale aspects of the play, but everything else seemed to click in a way that immersed you into the plot. As you watch you seem to forget your still seated in the same spot and the stage set hasn’t changed one bit. It isn’t until the lights go out that you snap back into reality and applaud for a performance that took you so far away.
Everything from the character positioning to set design, it all worked very well to express the plot of the story. One thing that really caught my eye was the goofy look of the muskets that the soldiers held. I believe the director did specifically designed them to look somewhat goofy to appeal the the younger crowd. That is just one example of the directing that fascinated me. There was nothing about the directing work on this play that I could specifically point out in a negative manor. The acting work in this production was very good in some areas however, I think some characters didn’t fit their role as well as others.
The main characters Gunther, and Peter were played exceptionally well. Gunther’s character was played to tee. You could feel his grumpy, misunderstood laziness illuminating off him. There would have been no show at all without the excellent role playing from peter’s character. He expressed peter’s upbeat, curious, and mostly childish attributes in a way that really drew the audience to him. I was excited to see what he would do next and that is how acting should be. The snobby roles of Trescott and Madame Grotsky were played so well I almost was hesitant to applaud for them at the end of the play in dislike of their characters.
The elves were all played very well. Their silliness and singing presented them as appealing characters for the young audience. Some of the actors, mostly the elves, were required to do acrobatics and some light singing. I believe these special demands were produced well. There were some characters I thought could have been better represented however. The character Little Bit seemed a little awkward in her position. Something about her felt completely different than what I would of expected from the script. All the actors did very well expressing their lines in a way in which the audience could could hear and be engaged in. here was even a part where the actors had to whisper amongst each other which played out perfectly. The I was impressed with the over all acting of The Elves and The Shoemaker. The Malcom Theater set the perfect stage for this kind of performance. The stage was the perfect size for every member in the audience to be engaged in every aspect of the performance. The set of the play really impressed me. The stage had to be set up in a fashion that allowed the magical elves to peer into the stage from every direction without being noticed. I am not a director but I imagine this was one of the most challenging aspects in designing the set.
Not only was this set up perfectly, but the rest of the scenery had taken no losses in overcoming this challenge. The design of the Gunther’s cabin felt just as it did when I read the play myself. With the simple action of a screen coming down, the movement of a tree prop, and some well timed fog makers, a battlefield was created as the second setting of the play. Not only did the scenery project a feeling of a different place, but you felt a whole new time period as well. It was like being taken back in time. All of these elements mixed together made this production feel like an immersive experience.
The costume design throughout The Elves And The Shoemaker was appropriate for the time period it represented. The soldiers wore old style vest, pants, and boots that brought you back to looking at old history book pictures. The main characters wore ragged old cloths and leather shoes. Trescott and Madame Grotsky, representing the rich of the era, wore big hair, poppy dresses, and tailed suites. Most of the costumes fit their respected characters. There was one disappointment I had with the costume design. With the script highly expressing the raggedness of the all the elves I had expected their cloths to reflect that view.
I could not find any distinct difference in the elves cloths from any of the other characters. This single element distracted me from the performance but it wasn’t enough to ruin the entire event. I never really knew how much effort was put into the light design on a theater performance. I had the opportunity to help set up the lights for The Elves And The Shoemaker. There are over a hundred lights, every single one of them does something different for the show. Because every light is so important, every light must be adjusted and focused to properly complete its function.
One thing that really impressed me is the transitions from day to night. With just the right adjustment of light it really felt like the actors were waking to a rising sun. you could really feel that sense of time. Working on the lights was a great experience for me and I now see the great amount of work that goes into light production. The Elves And The Shoemaker was a really impressive performance. A show that was designed to entertain children achieved nothing short of entertainment for myself. I would recommend a performance like this to anyone. As I continue to experience theater I am becoming more impressed with the art all together.