The Austin Chronicle

Pollyanna Theatre Company

A world of 'Patterns'

By Hannah Kenah, June 19, 2009, Arts

In a child's world, they are called repetition. In an adult's world, they are called routines. Whatever name we choose to give them, patterns – be they visual, musical, mathematical, or narrative – guide us through life. Patterns allow us to communicate, collaborate, and create. Our world is filled with repeated sequences, even ones of which we aren't conscious, such as the rhythms of human interaction. Fortunately for the young audiences of Austin, Emily Cicchini decided to see what would happen when patterns were put on stage.

Cicchini is the playwright-in-residence with Pollyanna Theatre Company. In 2005, she created Patterns, an energetic play in which four friends – Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green – work together to identify the patterns around them. The show was a major success, and Cicchini continued to write new adventures for the well-loved characters. Patterns and More Patterns: The Repeat have been seen by more than 10,000 children. This summer, Pollyanna Theatre Company reveals its third installment in the series. Pattern Nation follows Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green as they discover a box and all the possibilities it holds inside.

The beauty of Cicchini and Pollyanna Theatre Company's work is that it honors both the simplicity and the complexity of a child's mind. The patterns may be basic – days of the week or shapes – but the emotions are grand. The character Red doesn't always understand how the patterns work. He doesn't catch on or fit in as easily as Yellow, Blue, and Green. As he struggles, his friends alternate between helping and making fun. Pattern Nation is as much about human experience as it is about learning. "It's critical that kids see professional, quality work that's designed for them," Cicchini says. "We aspire to be art first. There's an educational component, but the main thing is to get an emotional and intellectual response from the audience, and that's an artistic goal."

Given the success of Pollyanna Theatre Company since its inception in 2002, it is clear the company is meeting those artistic goals. Cicchini's writing has thrived with the opportunity to work so closely with Artistic Director Judy Matetzschk-Campbell and the company's actors. "For a playwright to find such a supportive, adventurous, serious, playful, funny, collaborative home – it's just a gift." When Pattern Nation opens this week, colors will come to life, a box will become whole worlds, and audiences will discover they live in a world rich with repetition and routine.

Pattern Nation runs June 19-27, Tuesday-Friday, 9:15 and 10:45am; Saturday, 11am and 2pm; Sunday, 2pm, in the Rollins Studio Theatre at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside. For more information, call 743-7966 or visit

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