A Review of RUFF! by 7-year-old Lydia Riesen

“I just saw RUFF!. My Mom asked me which part I liked. I liked all the parts. I liked the whole thing! I liked the hats they wore for dog ears. I liked how soft one of the dog hats was. I got to feel it. I liked how the mean dog turned into the nice dog at the end.” Free performances of RUFF! continue Friday, August 7 at Noon and 1:30pm and Saturday, August 8 at Noon and 1:30pm downstairs at the Sprague Library (2131 S. Highland Drive). Tickets are free but required – they are available for both shows beginning at 11am each day. Part of the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival....

What We’re Doing This Summer (aka Three Press Releases, One Blog Post)

Jenifer Nii’s RUFF! receives its world premiere with six free public performances as part of the inaugural Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival August 6-8, 2015 Noon and 1:30pm (no performances August 9) Running time: 35 minutes Admission: Free tickets available at the door beginning at 11am on performance days Location: Sprague Branch, City Library, 2131 S. Highland Drive (downstairs) RUFF!, created specifically for grades K-3 (but accessible to children of all ages!), is a metaphorical “tail” of two shelter dogs. Axel (a shelter regular played by Tyson Baker) and Buddy (a shelter novice played by Latoya Rhodes). Together they discover what’s possible when dogs and their people learn to see past stereotypes and summon the courage to be the best they can be. Directed by Jerry Rapier. Intermountain Therapy Animals will have therapy dogs present at each performance. The use of therapy dogs, trained to interact with all humans calmly and equally, is to ensure that each human-canine interaction is a positive one. Read more from playwright Jenifer Nii in the July issue of Catalyst Magazine. RUFF! will then tour as Plan-B’s Free Elementary School Tour to more than 10,000 elementary students from Weber to Juab County, funded in part by Community Foundation of Utah, Salt Lake City Arts Council and an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Mary Dickson’s EXPOSED receives a Script-In-Hand Series reading in partnership with Utah Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (UCAN) Sunday, August 9, 2015 at 6pm Running time: 90 minutes Admission: Free, click here for tickets Location: Jeanne Wagner Theatre at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W 300 S EXPOSED places a...

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,...

Playwright Jenifer Nii on RUFF! (2014/15 Season, Add-On #2)

Jenifer Nii’s plays WALLACE (co-written with Debora Threedy), THE SCARLET LETTER and SUFFRAGE have premiered at Plan-B, the latter two garnering back-to-back nominations for the American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg Award for Best New American Play Produced Outside New York. She spent a decade as a newspaper reporter after her university aspirations to be a concert pianist were thwarted by a pinky finger that snapped three times during a single Schumann sonata. She now trains dogs and writes plays, proudly calling Plan-B her creative home. When Jerry Rapier commissioned me as one of the five playwrights to create work for Plan-B’s Free Elementary School Tour, I wondered what kind of nuttiness had possessed him. I am childless, terrified of children, and I believe equally terrifying to them. I’m the dog lady! What story could I possibly tell that would be of interest to tiny humans? “Dogs, silly,” said Jerry. “You’re a playwright who’s obsessed with dogs. So write. Tell a story. Say it with dogs.” It turns out that writing plays and training dogs are similar processes. They both require discipline, openness, patience and perseverance. They both require me to face fear, do my homework, step out into the unknown, and believe. Training dogs requires creativity, to be able to look at a situation and see possibility, and then make the possibility a reality. In so many ways that’s exactly what writing is for me: overcoming doubt, allowing myself the freedom to act on an idea, and then willing myself to keep trying. I have seen firsthand the special connection between animals and children. I see it again and again, almost...

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