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Youth theater takes center stage at play festival

John Benson • May 12, 2015 at 6:28 PM

Want to go?

• WHAT: The Ronald M. Ruble Play Festival

• WHEN: May 14-15

• WHERE: McBride Auditorium, BGSU Firelands College, 1 University Dr., Huron

• COST: Free

• INFO: 419-372-0642

Nothing short of producing the next “The Wizard of Oz” or “Alice in Wonderland” is the goal behind the Caryl Crane Children’s Theater’s inaugural Ronald M. Ruble Play Festival, which takes place May 14 and 15 at BGSU Firelands’ McBride Auditorium.

“We’re trying to find the next best show in youth and children’s theater,” Caryl Crane Children’s Theater Artistic Director Brian Marshall said. “We’re taking national submissions of children and youth production that have never been produced anywhere. These are all written by adults for children. There’s a national movement to drive children’s theater and to not just fit in the traditions that children’s theater has been accustomed to, like put on a pig costume and do ‘Charlotte’s Web.’

“This is about finding things that interest kids today. Finding subjects that are relevant to kids today and ways to present materials and get this generation of children excited about theater, involved in theater where they’re not necessarily involved as they used to be.”

The first year alone brought in 77 submissions from all over the globe. Two committees, one featuring community members and BGSU faculty and the other made up of the Caryl Crane Children’s Theater Teen Board, selected five plays that will be produced in a stage reading setting (meaning reading from a book) and with minimal staging and backdrops.

“The Ronald M. Ruble Play Festival is an amazing opportunity for us,” said Caryl Crane Children’s Theater Teen Board President Kelsea Freeman, a 17-year-old Edison High School senior who lives in Vermilion. “We get the chance to read and perform plays from all over the country that no one has seen or performed before.”

As for finding unique and relevant subject matter relating to teen life in 2011, The Ronald M. Ruble Play Festival has plenty. The list includes the self-discovery-based musical “Jennifer The Unspecial: time travel, love potions & 8th grade,” the eating disorder commentary “Hunger,” the funny musical “The Littlest Witch,” the “CSI”-esque “Nick Tickle, Fairy Tale Detective, in: Saved in the Nick (Tickle) of Time!” and the musical “Jack and the Chocolate Milk Cow,” the folk-rock update to “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

“Audiences should walk out feeling like they’ve just seen a production that’s going to be produced around the world,” Marshall said. “They should feel excited.”

Ultimately, Marshall is rolling the dice that The Ronald M. Ruble Play Festival will help Caryl Crane Children’s Theater leave a lasting mark on the national theater scene. “With schools cutting arts programs, we have to find new ways to get kids excited about the arts and theater,” Marshall said. “By being a launch pad for brand new work here at Caryl Crane Children’s Theater and joining this national movement to find these plays and new material, the goal is to find the next ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ The reason being is if that production takes off, becomes the next big hit, Caryl Crane will be associated with being the first people who produced it.”

The Caryl Crane Children’s Theater’s free Ronald M. Ruble Play Festival takes place May 14 and 15 at McBride Auditorium, BGSU Firelands College, One University Drive, Huron. Call 419-372-0642.

2011 Ronald M. Ruble New Play Festival Finalists & Schedule

The Littlest Witch

•Book by Tony Jerris

•Music/Lyrics by Corinne Aquilina

• WHEN: 7 p.m. May 14


•By Peter F. Langman

• WHEN: 4 p.m. May 14

Nick Tickle, Fairy Tale Detective, in: Saved In The Nick (Tickle) of Time!

•By Steph Deferie

• WHEN: 2 p.m. May 15

Jack and The Chocolate Milk Cow

•Book/Lyrics by Hana Roth Seavey

•Music By Henry Sheridan

• WHEN: 4 p.m. May 15

Jennifer the Unspecial: time travel, love potions & 8th grade

•Book/Lyrics by Matt Mezzacappa

•Music by Cynthia Chi-Wing Wong

• WHEN: 2 p.m. May 14

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