Saturday, May 5, 2012

Young at Heart

It's the first weekend in May, which means it's the opening weekend of another Fairy Tales in the Park season. Every year, members of the Ventura County theatre community get together to write, direct, and perform free shows from May through September, in parks throughout Ventura County, California.

My friends John and Roxanne Diesel started Fairy Tales in the Park in 1995. When I joined the troupe in 1996, performances were only at Rancho Simi Park in Simi Valley (at the amphitheatre in front of the duck pond, where performances were occasionally interrupted by a duck living under the stage). Since then, the program has expanded to include four additional locations throughout the county.

This is real seat-of-the-pants theatre, with no stage manager or stage crew, and usually no stage. Costumes and props are kept to a minimum; in fact, the original intention was that we would be able to carry everything we needed for a performance in a trunk (hence our name: "The Gypsies-in-a-Trunk Players"). Performances always end with our theme song, which we invite the audience to sing along with us:
Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you,
If you’re young at heart.
For it’s hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind,
If you’re young at heart.

And if you should survive to a hundred and five,
Look at all you’ll derive out of being alive.
And here is the best part—
You have a head start,
Because you are among the very young at heart.
This weekend and next, my friends Gabriel Vega, Chris Carnicelli, and I will be reprising a wacky, wild-west version of Peter Pan that we first performed five years ago. If you're in the area, I hope you'll join us.

You'll discover what I've known since I discovered Fairy Tales in the Park—that there is something truly special about children's theatre. It really does keep you "young at heart."

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