Wednesday, June 4, 2008
May 30, 2008
‘Seussical’ production has a pro-life message
by Jennifer Brinker, Review Staff Writer
(from the May 30, 2008 issue of "The St. Louis Review")
Theater of the Word Inc. is presenting "Seussical Jr." next month, to be performed by youths from the St. Louis Catholic Homeschool Association.
The two-act play, based on several stories from popular children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel (who wrote as "Dr. Seuss"), will be performed 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 13 and 14, at the Cardinal Rigali Center, 20 Archbishop May Drive in Shrewsbury.
Ticket sales from the performances will benefit Theater of the Word, a local theater company founded last year that places a focus on productions with a Catholic perspective. Seventeen-year-old homeschool student Amalie Cobb of St. Joseph Parish in Cottleville is directing the cast of nearly 20 junior high-age students who are part of the homeschool association’s Jr. Drama Class. The class is an extracurricular activity for the association’s students.
"Seussical" centers on Horton the elephant and his endeavors to protect the people of Whoville, who live on a tiny speck of dust that he’s discovered. He is ridiculed by the others living in the Jungle of Nool, with the exception of a bird, Gertrude McFuzz, who begins to believe him. The speck, which Horton had placed on a clover for protection, is stolen by a band of monkeys called the Wickersham Brothers. Along Horton’s journey to find the clover, he is convinced by another bird, Mayzie LaBird, to give up his search and instead sit on the egg she is nesting while she goes away on a vacation.
Eventually, Horton learns that the egg is doomed to be motherless, so he takes on the responsibility of nurturing the egg himself. He is eventually reunited with Gertrude, who finds the clover.
Amalie Cobb noted that the main characters of "Seussical" are pushed to "mature past a point of insecurity ... and show that they are ready to take care of themselves and take care of others."
Reflecting on the play’s pro-life theme, Kevin O’Brien, founder and president of the Theater of the Word, noted that one of the lines from a "Horton Hears a Who" on the "Seussical" soundtrack is, "A person’s a person no matter how small."
O’Brien noted that "any dramatic art form that is written from a Catholic or pro-life perspective will help people see a point of view better." Those in the audience "certainly side with Horton and decide he’s got to save these people. If you can make that leap imaginatively ... then maybe you can make that leap when making real-life decisions on abortion and so forth."
O’Brien was introduced to the homeschool association when he was invited to see their first production of "Seussical" in April at St. John Bosco in Creve Coeur. He also was there to give a presentation about his company’s mission and promote performances from its inaugural season.
"I was especially impressed that they put it together all on their own," he said, complimenting Amalie on her ability to "corral such a large group and focus them.
"The kids were great, and I was just inspired after I saw it. These kids have had no training — they’re doing it because they love doing it. So we wanted to team up with them in some way."
"Seussical" is the third directorial effort for Amalie, who also has overseen a short one-act play and "Alice in Wonderland." Her mother, Lori Cobb, supervisor of the junior drama class, noted that her daughter also oversaw the choreography for "Seussical."
"I have definitely found that directing is a blessing," said Amalie. "Just being able to work with this cast and teach them how to use the skills that God has given them to perform a play ... has definitely been a blessing for me."
After the group’s first performance of "Seussical" in April, Lori Cobb said her daughter experienced a sense of detachment from the performance.
"We got home and Amalie said, ‘I kind of feel like it wasn’t mine.’ I told her, it’s not about her, it’s not about the play, it’s about God."
"Watching her develop and watching God refine her in her leadership skills and soften her in her directorial skills, just watching the cast and her respond to each other both in trust and development has been incredibly inspirational," said Lori Cobb.
Tickets for "Seussical" are $10 for adults and $5 for ages 12 and younger. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling Theater of the Word at (314) 849-WORD (9673).