Released: Nov. 24, 1999
Centre College honors student who created traveling children's theater
DANVILLE, KY Centre College senior Julee Baber of Winchester has been honored by the college as November Volunteer of the Month for her effort to create a traveling theater to entertain children.
In visits to hospitals, children's homes and other settings, Baber and a small troupe of friends have been bringing to life fairy tales and other stories in a dramatic style that features audience participation and the element of surprise. During one recent performance at the Woodlawn Children's Home, Baber's audience proved the success of the program. Children shouted with eagerness when the prince asked their help in finding the real owner of the glass slipper.
Baber is pleased about the volunteer award but says the honor belongs to all of the students who are helping with the productions. "This award should really go to the entire company. All members of the cast and crew have dedicated a great deal of time and talent to The Traveling Toybox. They probably have no idea how much I appreciate them, but they've seen the kids' reactions and that's worth a great deal more."
A veteran of four drama productions at Centre, Baber decided this year that she wanted to take humorous theatrical productions to children who have little access to the performing arts. She recruited help from other Centre students, who helped her make costumes, build sets and create the large Traveling Toy Box that carries essential items to every production -- and symbolizes the name of the troupe.
Cinderella is the first production for TTB, and it has been fun for the students despite the many hours of work required in preparation. This interpretation of the traditional fairy tale is slightly wacky. Cinderella's stepsisters have more than the usual problems with their looks -- they are decidedly bulky girls with a propensity for beards. Those "stepsisters" are none other than two Centre guys, Paul Martin of Danville and Nathan Paranthaman of Big Stone Gap, Va. For the good cause of TTB, they don frilly dresses and adopt the stepsisters' bad attitudes.
The Cinderella cast includes a total of seven student actors plus a stage manager and Baber as director. Crystal Johnson of Milford, Ohio, plays Cinderella, and Scott Godthaab of Tell City, Ind., portrays the prince. Ashley Jagar of Millbrook, N.Y., serves as stage manager.
Baber admits that the project turned out to be much more difficult than she originally imagined. "I told myself that this would be a small production with little work, but boy was I wrong!" Baber says with a laugh. "We wanted the quality to be good, so we ended up needing scenery and costumes and props just like a complete production on a campus stage."
Centre professor Matthew Hallock came up with an ingenious design for portable scenery. He painted detailed scenes on heavy cloth curtains and devised a rack that could be dismantled for carrying from place to place.
The TTB troupe now is rehearsing an additional play, The Emperor's New Clothes, and will present both works Wednesday, Dec. 1, on the Centre campus. The 7:30 p.m. performance in Weisiger Theater is open to the public at no cost.
Baber is earning a double major in dramatic arts and government. During the past summer, she served as director of children's programs for the Lakes Region Summer Theater in New Hampshire.
Baber is a 1996 graduate of George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester. Her parents are Vernon and Linda Baber of Winchester.
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