Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 6, 2023

Preview: Playhouse on Park, "Dandelion"

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford, CT
May 21 - June 15, 2023
by Shera Cohen

Instead of our usual reviews and previews, here is another angle, a personal story about my entree into theatre.

Playhouse on Park presents a world-premiere of "Dandelion". Unfortunately, none of In the Spotlight's reviewers could attend the show, one reason being that none of us have young children. The ideal critique would be an adult writer attending with a child. We have printed and/or posted reviews like this in the past. Getting the two perspectives is one of my joys of theatre.

My personal story about my entrance into theatre began as a child. One assignment from our fifth grade teacher was to produce an original play. As I think back about Alan Taylor, then in his first year of teaching straight out of college, I am still in awe of this man whose work with children, including me, was so creative. I have never had a teacher like Mr. Taylor since, including college and grad school.

Looking back decades later, I can appreciate that the task for his class of 10-year-olds was mammoth. What was he thinking?! "Produce a play" had many important components to the job. The "to do list" included: write the play with dialogue for each character, make the cast of hand-made string puppets, design and build a stage with a shoe box backdrop, select actors and crew. In most cases each of us wrote, designed, starred, and produced our own plays which were then performed one by one to the rest of the class.

My play was a mini-biography of Helen Keller. Her life and accomplishments were and still are beyond my comprehension. I knew that, at the very least, she deserved a play written about her by an elementary school kid. To this day, I have my Helen Keller puppet in a storage room in an old Forbes & Wallace paper bag. 

I honestly say that my play was quite good. I could never create objects that in any way looked like humans now, but the fifth grader me could do it. String-puppets are a whole lot tougher than hand puppets or dolls. Mr. Taylor challenged each of us in his class, all the time knowing that we could do this project, feel wonderful about our newly acquired skills, and hopefully learn to love theatre.
I doubt if I could take all on-stage and backstage work myself like I did as a child. Besides, I shouldn't Theatre is a collaborative creation. Mr. Taylor threw me in the deep end of the pool and said, "make a play". I did and continued in theatre ever since.

I'm sure that your child or any child would enjoy "Dandelion". Although I haven't seen it, I have done my homework. This experience at POP might be the catalyst into theatre as a hands-on person or a member of the audience.