O Rooster, Where Art Thou?

Second Youth Gives 'The Bremen Town Musicians' an Americana Soundtrack

If you ask someone in the Austin arts community to name the best children's theatre company in the city, the answer you'll probably get is Second Youth Family Theatre (and can anyone come up with a neater name for a children's theatre company than Second Youth?). While a lot of theatres in town produce pieces aimed primarily at children, no organization does it as exclusively and as well as this one. The Bremen Town Musicians, its final production of the 2002-2003 season, brings the familiar tale to 1930s America, with country, bluegrass, and gospel forming the soundtrack to the road trip of the Donkey, Cat, Dog, and Rooster intent on musical careers. It's a show the company has done more than a couple of times before, much to the delight of its extremely popular local writer/ lyricist/composer Allen Robertson.

Austin Chronicle: How did this version of Bremen Town originally come about?

Allen Robertson: I worked as a composer for Second Youth's first production, The Snow Queen, writing underscoring. That was 1991. I was finishing my M.F.A. in theatre at UT where several of my musicals had been produced, one of them directed by Rod Caspers, who was the director of Snow Queen. Rod, Rick Smith [Second Youth's producing artistic director and director of the current revival of Bremen Town], and Christopher Boyd, the founders of Second Youth, were all interested in developing new musicals and creating theatre that would appeal to all ages. I told them that I had this idea for a musical adaptation of Bremen, and they decided to produce it. I guess the show was written 12 years ago. Wow, can that be right?

AC: There are hundreds of children's stories out there. Why did you decide to adapt Bremen Town specifically?

AR: While at UT I was very focused on multigenerational theatre. I also was studying and teaching creative drama, using dramatic elements to help teach different subjects and spur creative thinking. When working with younger people, I often used traditional stories, and it just happened that one day I used Bremen. I had always liked the story, as its simple "journey" structure was good for exploring several themes. The students locked onto the idea of someone being told they no longer had purpose because of their age. Later I was working with a group at a retirement community, and I shared some of the children's thoughts about Bremen. The retirees seemed to relate to the story of Bremen strongly as well. Talk turned to the Great Depression -- to people who had lost their purpose, traveling together to find a better life. The story has a great message about empowering the disenfranchised in a way that benefits the entire community. A group facing a dead end that holds on to an idea of hope. A hope that motivates action. For me, Bremen is a symbol of that hope. end story

The Bremen Town Musicians runs June 6-22 at the Dougherty Arts Center, 1110 Barton Springs Rd. Call 386-8292, or visit www.secondyouth.com.

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The Bremen Town Musicians, Second Youth Family Theatre, Allen Robertson, The Snow Queen, Rod Caspers, Rick Smith, J. Richard Smith, Christopher Boyd

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