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Four-man show presents a spin on classic children’s tale

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The four-man show consisted of Leanna Hicks, who played the Mayor, Benjamin Brackley, who played The Boy,  Emma- Claire Polich, who played Inga and Cory Steiger, who played Larry the Sheep and the Narrator. The theatre has existed for more than 60 years with the intention of providing performances and a knowledge of theatre to children. 
Larshell Green/ The Lion's Roar 

Four members from the Virginia Repertory Theatre visited the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts to present a different version of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” 

The play ran on Saturday, Apr. 29 at 7 p.m. Children were encouraged to wear pajamas and were given cookies and milk at the conclusion of the show in the Columbia’s lobby.

Executive Director of the Columbia Theatre for Performing Arts Roy Blackwood shared the benefits of including the tradition at the theatre’s productions. 

“It’s really popular,” said Blackwood. “The parents love it, the kids really love it and they especially like it when the cast comes out.”

The four-man show consisted of Benjamin Brackley who played the Boy, Emma-Claire Polich who played Inga, Leanna Hicks, who played the Mayor and Cory Steiger who played Larry the Sheep and the Narrator. Because of their small cast, members of the production simultaneously played other characters such as Polich’s role as the Town Crier, Brackley’s role as the Town’s Guardian Candidate and Steiger’s role as the Town Guardian.

Virginia Repertory’s version of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” began when Steiger retired from his role of Town Guardian. A campaign began between Polich and Brackley, and Brackely’s character sabotaged Polich’s character Inga by spreading the rumor that she had fleas. 

“‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ is such a popular story, in any version, so I think people should come in with an open mind,” said Steiger. “I think our version has something that’s a little different. There’s a lot of twists and turns.”

One of those twists occurred at the conclusion of the play when Brackley, who played the new Town Guardian, pretended to see the Wolf. When the Wolf showed up, Inga saved the townspeople and was appointed Town Guardian. Brackely’s character learned the error of his ways and was named Most Trustworthy Citizen. The Wolf became the town’s sweater model.

Adaline Brock, 7, of Loranger Elementary School enjoyed the theatrical elements of the show and quickly identified the moral of the story. 

“I learned that you shouldn’t lie to other people,” said Brock. “If you lie, they might not believe you and you could hurt people.”

Shameka Lee of Greensburg brought kids along to teach them some of the lessons described in the production.

“I did actually like that about the show as far as being honest, telling the truth and not being a bully,” said Lee. “I’m so against bullying.”

Hicks explained the importance of imagination when presenting a show to an audience. 

“I think it’s always best when people are already in the mindset of what this is, and they’re ready to imagine with us, go along with our different characters that we go into, are ready to open their creative minds with us and come along the journey with us,” said Hicks. 

The Virginia Repertory Theatre has been around for over 60 years. According to Brackley, who also serves as the road manager for the show, the theatre was originally known as Theatre IV. 

The Columbia Theatre has worked with this company before and likes their professionalism.

“We’ve contacted the Virginia Rep before,” said Blackwood. “They’re an excellent company. They always produce a really good show, and we can count on them.”

In 2012, Theatre IV and Barksdale Theatre merged to create the current company that is based in Richmond, Virginia that hopes to educate children about theatre.

“We travel the country going to different schools and theatres, performing for children,” said Brackley. “We get kids involved in the arts by introducing them to what theatre is and what it can be. We do different things such as with the sound, sometimes with the lights depending on the theatre that we’re at.”

Blackwood explained the importance of allowing children to be exposed to the theatre community early in life. 

“We want it to be fun for them so that when they come back later, they’ll want to come back and they’ll already know how to behave.” said Blackwood. “Then they’ll maybe start a tradition of coming to the theatre. It’s all about audience development.”

The actors work hard to differentiate each character they play.

“That also relies on us too, being able to distinguish different characters for the audience members so they don’t have to do a whole ton of work,” said Hicks. “It’s nice when our costumes and our props that we put on to create a whole new character from the one we just played literally two milliseconds ago helps us tell the story to them in different character ways. It’s nice when they’re open to, ‘That’s a new person, that’s a new character.’” 

Polich cites two of the perks to her job as being able to travel and inspire the youth of communities.

“I’ve never been to Louisiana until yesterday, so getting to travel is really awesome,” said Polich. “Also, being able to dress up and play imagination games on tour is super fun for me because I get to literally do what I love as my job. I get to brighten so many kids’days or evenings and just have a great time. and see their enthusiasm for theatre or costumes.”

Olivia and Jackson Pizzolato of Tickfaw had milk  and cookies after the production in the Columbia’s lobby. The cast greeted children and took photos. 
Larshell Green/The Lion’s Roar

In this version of the play by the Virginia Repertory Theatre, the wolf  became a sweater model and lived with townspeople  in the conclusion. Larshell Green/The Lion’s Roar


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