Elementary, My Dear Dramatist
Third graders' tales come alive on the Paramount stage
By Robert Faires, 2:30PM, Wed. Dec. 19, 2012
History may have denied us the opportunity to see what William Shakespeare was writing in the third grade – the definitive drama about robot zombies, perhaps? – but not so the budding bards in Austin's elementary schools. Several of them will have their tales performed on the stage of the Paramount Theatre tonight at 7pm, thanks to the Story Wranglers.
Developed for the Paramount's Literacy to Life program, the Story Wranglers are a band of adult actors and musicians who engage in creative writing residencies at area elementary schools, such as Brentwood, Reilly, Blackshear, Highland Park, Matthews, and Galindo. For seven weeks, the Wranglers work with the students, encouraging and helping them to develop their own narratives in both individual journals and collaborative group exercises. At the conclusion of the residency, some of the stories are used as the foundation for short sketches and songs, which are then stitched together into an hourlong program. The Wranglers rehearse the tales, create costumes or props – puppets are a big hit – and take the finished show back to the school, where they perform it for the authors and their classmates. Suddenly, their writing has crossed over from words on a page to action, and these kids begin to see the creativity within themselves as their own superpower.For the first few years of the program, these performances were limited to the schools in which the residencies were conducted, but earlier this year the Wranglers went public with a sort of "Best of" show on the Stateside at the Paramount stage. Now, the Wranglers are at it again, but this time they've taken over the big poppa stage at the Paramount and recruited some special guests to help them wrangle these young Shakespeares' stories into the theatre: Alex & Nick from 101X FM's Jason & Deb Morning Show, Charlie Hodge, Graham Reynolds, and KB the Boo Bonic. It's bound to be a special show, with stories unlike any you'll see grownups produce this year. The performance is tonight, Dec. 19, 7pm, at the Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress. For more information, visit www.austintheatre.org.