Director Christy Summerhays' takeaway from Plan-B's Free Elementary School Tour

Christy Summerhays directed Plan-B’s first Free Elementary School Tour, Sergei Prokofiev’s PETER AND THE WOLF in partnership with Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation, which was seen by more than 10,000 elementary students. Davis Arts Council and Salt Lake Symphony partnered on various legs of the tour. When I’m asked what super power I would choose (a question that comes up surprisingly often) I always say, The Ability to Become Invisible. I would LOVE to stand in front of a movie theatre, for instance, and watch people watching a movie.  I like the idea of being able to see people as they truly are. The closest I have come to fulfilling this fantasy is when I got to take Plan-B’s production of Prokofiev’s PETER AND THE WOLF to elementary schools. Usually when a production is up and running the director’s job is finished and she moves on to other things. Luckily for me we needed someone to run the projections for these school shows and I took over. I would set up the projector behind a large screen that we ritualistically assembled at each new school and find a place I could sit to push my buttons.  Inevitably I would have a perfect view of the children sitting on the edges of the auditorium and my wish to be invisible would come true…for about 45 minutes.  It was heavenly.  When Kary Billings played Aaron Copland’s “Ho Down” the little kindergarteners couldn’t help but move their fingers wildly, immediately imagining they could keep up with Kary’s keyboard acrobatics. And then, as Jay Perry told the story of PETER AND THE WOLF and...

Pianist Kary Billings' takeaway from Plan-B's Free Elementary School Tour

Kary Billings (Board Chair, Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation) was the pianist on Plan-B’s first Free Elementary School Tour, Sergei Prokofiev’s PETER AND THE WOLF in partnership with Gina Bachauer, which was seen by more than 10,000 elementary students. Davis Arts Council and Salt Lake Symphony partnered on various legs of the tour. The Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation was fortunate to partner with Plan-B Theatre Company on the launch of their Free Elementary School Tour during the 2012/13 season. But the story is much deeper than that. We had offices and performed in the same facility for more than a decade before we really took the time to get to know each other’s work. Plan-B and Gina Bachauer worked together for the first time inside a much larger collaboration, THE ROSE EXPOSED, involving four other companies at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. We were tasked with creating a family-friendly segment of the day’s activities. The result, an interactive staging of PETER AND THE WOLF, was so well received that we expanded the program and toured to more than 10,000 school children, ages K-3, during the 2012/13 season. The theme of this expanded program was “Storytelling Through Music.” My new friends Jay Perry (a brilliant actor), Christy Summerhays (amazingly talented both as actor and director), and I went to work shaping a new program for the tour. At each school Jay took the role of Narrator, introducing the Piano (Daynes Music Company ensured that a Steinway 7′ grand piano was delivered to each of the 28 schools we toured to!) and explaining the various ways that a story could be...

Actor Jay Perry's takeaway from the Free Elementary School Tour

Jay Perry narrated Plan-B’s first Free Elementary School Tour, Sergei Prokofiev’s PETER AND THE WOLF in partnership with Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation, which was seen by more than 10,000 elementary students. Davis Arts Council and Salt Lake Symphony partnered on various legs of the tour. I’ve been working as actor with Plan-B since 2005 and in that time I’ve had the pleasure of performing for some really wonderful audiences. Our audiences are smart, diverse and extremely generous. They are our friends and critics, our neighbors and family members, our contemporaries and partners and, when we’re lucky enough to perform for them, they’re our children. Any actor who’s performed for kids will tell you that they keep you honest. They’re the toughest audience of all and need you to be engaged and real or they’ll quickly lose interest and start getting restless. They appreciate your authenticity and will let you know if they don’t see it. I’ve performed with Plan-B on both coasts, in concert halls and black box theatres, in rooms large and small, and no audience has been so immediately, viscerally communicative and engaging as an auditorium full of children. The feeling of an entire elementary school laughing, gasping, responding and making wolf faces back at pianist Kary Billings from Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation and me as we told our story with music and words was absolutely magical. I’ve always felt fortunate to be an actor working in a community that shows so much support for its artists and I’m especially proud to work with an artistic organization that honors and supports its community the way...

Producing Director Jerry Rapier on creating the Free Elementary School Tour

Jerry Rapier has been Plan-B’s Producing Director since 2000. His son Oscar is now two and has changed how he sees everything. Since the market crash of 2008, myriad arts faculty positions at elementary, middle and high schools in Utah have been cut back to half-time and, in some cases, the programs either relegated to after-school activities or cut altogether. Funding for buses for field trips has also become so limited that the once-common arts field trip is quickly becoming a thing of the past. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah boasted the largest average class size but still managed to rank 12th nationwide in per-pupil spending in 1996. By 2012 (the most recent comprehensive data available), Utah still boasted the largest average class size but had dropped to 50th in per-pupil spending ($6,193 or 70% below the national average of $10,608). In response, Plan-B launched its Free Elementary School Tour, the first-ever educational tour from a professional theatre company in Utah focused on new work created specifically for elementary students. Envisioned as a six-year project featuring five commissions (the first year of the tour was PETER AND THE WOLF, a rare Plan-B production of an existing title), the goal is to provide free, professional, in-school performance at Title I schools while adding five new plays to the canon of theatre for young audiences (two for 4-6, three for K-3). During last year’s tour of DIFFERENT=AMAZING by Matthew Ivan Bennett (an anti-bullying piece drawn from the real-life experiences of Utah elementary students), I was energized by how well we were connecting with 4-6 graders. A few schools opted to...

Help fund Plan-B's Free Elementary School Tour as part of #GivingTuesday on December 2

  Last year we at Plan-B decided that rather than conduct the standard, year-end “Holiday Ask” campaign last December, we at Plan-B Theatre joined more than 10,000 non-profit organizations worldwide for the 24-hour global fundraiser #Giving Tuesday. It turns out that we were the second most successful theatre company in the world . . . .so we’ve decided to participate again this December. #GivingTuesday is Tuesday, December 2 from 12:01am to 11:59pm (EST), which is really from 10:01pm on December 1 to 9:59pm on December 2 here in Zion. Please help fund our Free Elementary School Tour! Get familiar with how to make your gift that day. Plan-B Theatre Company, via the Free Elementary School Tour, is the only professional theatre company in Utah creating new work specifically for elementary students. Envisioned as a six-year project featuring five commissions, the goal is to provide free, professional, in-school performance at Title I schools while adding five new plays to the canon of theatre for young audiences. The Free Elementary School Tour launched with Sergei Prokofiev’s PETER AND THE WOLF, an interactive journey through the classic story of the hungry wolf, the ill-fated duck, the fortunate cat, the fearless little bird, and the brave and cunning Peter. PETER AND THE WOLF was seen at no charge by more than 10,000 K-3 students between September of 2012 and January of 2014. Performing Arts Coalition, Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation, Davis Arts Council and Salt Lake Symphony partnered at different stages of the tour. The second Free Elementary School Tour, the world premiere Matthew Ivan Bennett’s DIFFERENT=AMAZING, was drawn from real-life bullying experiences of elementary students,...

34th – and final – performance of PETER AND THE WOLF this Saturday afternoon in partnership with Salt Lake Symphony

This is a re-post from August 27, 2012, as Jay Perry was preparing to narrate PETER AND THE WOLF for the first time. He will narrate the 34th and final performance in partnership with Salt Lake Symphony this Saturday. Jay Perry has appeared in Plan-B’s TRAGEDY: A TRAGEDY, FACING EAST, THE ALIENATION EFFEKT, GUTENBERG! THE MUSICAL!, SHE WAS MY BROTHER, LADY MACBETH and every RADIO HOUR. He will next be seen in CLEARING BOMBS, opening February 20. Before I was born, my mother used to play classical music in our living room and she would often feel me moving to the music or sometimes being soothed by it.  I have always been moved by music’s power to take me on a journey and there’s something about musical storytelling that has a deeper resonance in my childhood memories than any other kind.  I heard countless nursery rhymes, saw hours and hours of Saturday morning cartoons, read volumes of children’s books and had as many read to me, but their words and images have mostly faded in my memory as have many of my associations with where I was when I encountered them. When I was a year old, mom took me to my first movie theatre to see Disney’s FANTASIA and though I don’t remember seeing it, she later told me I was quiet as a mouse for the entire film, my eyes never leaving the screen.  I was too young then to remember that experience now, but I do recall the first time I saw Disney’s animated portrayal of PETER AND THE WOLF very clearly. I was in the first grade.  I can remember the shades being drawn in the classroom.  Our teacher made popcorn and we’d moved our desks aside and sat...

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