Westport Country Playhouse set to raise curtain on mobile theater

WESTPORT — The Westport Country Playhouse is preparing to launch a kind of mobile theater in January, offering a fully staged live play that will travel to students in Fairfield County.

“The Playhouse Mobile Unit is part of our goal to build lasting relationships with our surrounding communities through the art of live theater,” said Jenny Nelson, Theater Director of Education and Community Engagement. and director of inaugural production. “The initiative will serve as a point of contact and provide authentic theater experiences in familiar and trusted environments – schools, community centers or wherever we gather.”

The project operates in part with money from Westport’s American Rescue Plan Act funding for the arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. It is aimed at students from 6th to 10th grade.

The mobile unit will begin with the 45 minute play “Scaredy Kat Presents” by Janine Sobeck Knighton. It focuses on the “joys and struggles of adolescence while trying to destigmatize anxiety and panic disorder,” according to a statement announcing the program.

The mobile unit is designed to accommodate any type of space, such as a large classroom, cafeteria or library. The production will include professional actors, set, costumes and special effects.

After the performance, the spectators have the opportunity to ask the actors questions about the play and their life in the theatre. A study guide and syllabus are also provided along with classroom activities and games.

“Scaredy Kat Presents” is about an 11-year-old girl named Kathryn who suffers from social anxiety. She spends most of her time in her basement, focusing on her two passions of Alfred Hitchcock and stop-motion animation. Kathryn eventually meets a new neighbor named Nadia, who is forced to spend her afternoons at Kathryn’s while her mother works.

Meanwhile, his attempts to win a trip to Hitchkock’s old sets fail. Nadia is interested in art, which Kathryn sees as a potential for success. Kathryn learns to share her dream while dealing with her anxiety as a potential new friend shows up.

“There is always a challenge when selecting a piece, but this selection process was even more complex because the piece had to be adaptable to any space as well as on a mission for the performance hall,” said Nelson said. “‘Scaredy Kat Presents’ is a touching and timely play for young people. Our hope is to reach as many young people as possible with this unique and important TYA (Theater for Young Audiences) play.”

It costs schools about $1,000 for a show, though Nelson said that’s a starting point. The playhouse offers financial assistance and payment plans upon request to cover the cost of the play. Group sales and discounts are also available for multiple performances in one day.

“To remove economic barriers, we also offer a sliding scale, payment plan and financial assistance,” Nelson said. “We want to work with schools and organizations to effectively meet the needs of their particular community.”

The mobile unit was designed to connect with Fairfield County schools and youth organizations, Nelson said. They are currently booking schools and community organizations and are looking to perform at 30-40 schools by the end of the tour in April.

“While we are passionate about connecting with historically underserved schools, we hope our tour will travel to a wide range of Fairfield County towns to create an access point for all,” she said. .

Although there is only one play this season, Nelson said the hope is to feature more plays as the program expands in the coming years.

“At the theater, we believe that theater is not just a physical space,” Nelson said. “It’s more than bricks and mortar. Through theater we connect and open up new possibilities. We believe theater can happen anywhere and should be accessible to everyone.”

“We hope the Playhouse mobile unit will help us connect with our communities for years to come,” Nelson said.

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