Monterey Peninsula College's Storybook Theatre will embark on a couple of "firsts" with their latest production, "Androcles and the Lion."
Not only will this be the first time in decades that the children's theater company has used the college's outdoor amphitheater to produce a show, but following a three-weekend home run, the theater company will take the show on the road to local schools. This marks the first time the company has attempted to go on tour with a production.
"Androcles and the Lion" opens Saturday at MPC's Outdoor Amphitheatre, where it will run weekends through Sept. 23. After that, the production will travel to Alisal High School, Salinas High School and Carmel Middle School, as well as at least one elementary school in Monterey or Marina.
This farcical stage adaptation of Aesop's beloved fable about a runaway slave who befriends a lion was penned by Aurand Harris in the style of commedia dell'arte, a theatrical genre developed in 16th-century Italy, using simple, masked character "types."
The style makes the production a perfect fit for the outdoor amphitheater, said Carey Crockett, director, because commedia dell'arte was traditionally performed on impromptu outdoor stages in the middle of the town square.
"We're trying to experiment with using the amphitheater more," Crockett said. "In general, it's more of a picnic environment. It's fun to work in the light of day. Amphitheaters are where theater really started
Crockett remembers that the outdoor amphitheater was used for anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1970s. Later, in the early '90s, MPC produced summertime shows in the amphitheater.
But because they had to transport and rig up lights outside to illuminate nighttime performances, it was logistically difficult to produce shows there.
"We're doing shows in the daytime so we won't have the lighting issues," said Crockett, noting that "Androcles" showings are scheduled for 2 and 5 p.m.
"It's a totally different experience being out in the open," he added. "The audience is much more spread out. It's more informal — you can think of the difference between listening to jazz while you're out at a club versus listening to jazz while having brunch."
After the closing show toward the end of September, Storybook Theatre will gear up to take the production to area schools.
"This is an introduction to touring, just to get our feet wet," said Sky Rappoport, MPC Theatre manager. "We wanted to reach a younger theater audience. Not enough parents are bringing kids to the theater anymore, so we thought we'd bring theater to the kids."
This is Storybook's second attempt at outreach after the company received a grant last year to provide free tickets to classes from local schools.
Though they extended the offer throughout the county, they found that schools couldn't accept the tickets because they couldn't afford to bus students to the theater.
So, since students couldn't be transported to the theater, MPC has decided to transport the theater to area schools.
"Based on the initial interest we have been getting from teachers that we have spoken with, they are excited about bringing our shows to their schools — especially when they learn there is no cost associated," said Rappoport. "Funding provided, we hope to continue this program, and are already discussing possible productions to tour in spring 2013."
Lily Dayton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. GO!
·What: MPC Storybook Theatre presents "Androcles and the Lion"
·Where: MPC Outdoor Amphitheatre, Monterey Peninsula College, 980 Fremont St., Monterey
·When: Opens at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8; Continues at 2 and 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays though Sept. 23
·Tickets: $9-$15, available at MPC Box Office (646-4213) 3-7p.m Wed, 3-5p.m. Thu-Fri and at the venue 90 minutes prior to each show, or online at www.TicketGuys.com