Theatre pros energize kids’ production

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 18, 2002

Amidst the noise and energy generated by nearly 50 exuberant children, Prairie Fire’s Bob Gribas and Tamara Kelly stood and calmly surveyed the scene. Their task: In just one week, they will help mold this crowd of third- through sixth-graders into an acting troupe.

No easy task, you might think, but within a few minutes they had the children’s attention and all were gathered together in the center of the gym at Sibley Elementary in Albert Lea. They started with whole group auditions, giving all the kids a chance to show how quiet and how loud they can be.

From there they moved on to practicing lines, songs and dances. All of the kids who try out are guaranteed a part, though it may not be one of the starring roles.

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&uot;They all want that specific part, but not everyone can be Snow White,&uot; said Chris Schaefer, a sixth-grade teacher at Sibley who is volunteering to help with the program.

The goal was to finish the auditions quickly and start rehearsing that afternoon, said Gribas and Kelly. Since they only have a week to get ready for the play’s performances, every rehearsal counts. By Wednesday the kids will have to have their parts memorized, they said.

The Prairie Fire children’s theatre members have been working with schools around the state since September, and have found each group of kids to be unique. Their own goals focus on what the kids get out of the experience.

&uot;I hope to have a good time and help them do their best,&uot; said Gribas.

&uot;I want to help the kids find confidence and learn to trust themselves,&uot; added Kelly.

The play is a musical version of &uot;Snow White&uot; created by Daniel Nordquist, one of Prairie Fire’s co-founders, with a couple of twists in the plot. After a week of rehearsals, performances will be in the High School Auditorium on Friday, April 19 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 20 at 1 p.m.

Gribas and Kelly share directing duties, but will also take two of the roles themselves. Gribas will play the huntsman and Kelly will portray the evil queen. The kids will portray the rest of the characters.

Deb Larson is another teacher at Sibley helping out with the play. She had come into contact with Prairie Fire when she was teaching in another district several years ago. She had been wanting to bring them here for awhile and was glad when they were able to make a visit possible, she said.

&uot;This gives the kids another area to excel in. It gives them a chance for self-expression and creativity,&uot; Larson said. The students who don’t otherwise participate in school activities may find this to something that excites them, she said.

&uot;This gets some kids to stretch their boundaries and do something different,&uot; said Schaefer.

Larson and Schaefer visited all the third, fourth, fifth and sixth grade classes at Sibley to promote the project, and they found kids who were enthusiastic and excited everywhere.

Prairie Fire is a non-profit childrens’ theater group, based out of the Twin Cities. Their week-long residency at Sibley is being sponsored by Sibley’s SHARE parent group. SHARE is also providing volunteers to help with stage managing and student supervision, said Kim Flaa, a SHARE member.

Gribas and Kelly make up one of three teams currently providing theater residencies to schools in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. In the summer, Prairie Fire expands to 10 teams that work with kids in Parks and Recreation programs, Community Ed classes, libraries and other organizations.