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Kids learn playwriting from Goat in the Road

Photo credit: joshua Brasted Owen Ever, Shannon Flaherty, Dylan Hunter, and Cameron-Mitchell Ware

Photo credit: joshua Brasted Owen Ever, Shannon Flaherty, Dylan Hunter, and Cameron-Mitchell Ware

Goat in the Road Productions may be touring the Northeast this month, performing its award-winning play, Numb, in Philadelphia and New York, but the theater company's essential mission is that of educating New Orleans’ kids in the performance arts.

In addition to creating 12 original productions, touring through six states, and winning three Big Easy Awards, the company has for eight years run Play/Write, a young playwrights' program fostering young talent. Now a year-round program at four schools - The International School of Louisiana, Success Preparatory Academy, St. Mary’s Academy, Warren Easton High School and Young Audience Charter School - Goat in the Schools introduces students to the basics of playwriting, staging plays, designing costumes, and acting. More than 800 students have written original plays of which 66 were performed by adult theatre companies at the annual Play/Write Showcase held at Dillard University.

“One of the things that is unique about the company is its focus on young artists, and the intention and time it puts in bringing their words from the page to the stage, allowing them to see their ideas and visions fully realized,” says Darci Fulcher, GRP director.

In October, professional actors took four student plays to the main stage of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre. Written by fifth to seventh-grade students, Fulcher thoroughly enjoyed the experience of directing Snowman, Monster, Dog because it tapped into her own childhood memories.

“It was a challenge to prevent ourselves from changing the script or altering it in any way. We had to remind ourselves that each line was intended to be there, and we had to remember what it was like to be a kid again. A child’s mind is a beautiful place to revisit as an adult,” she said.

“The most eye-opening aspect of the production has been slowly recognizing how we are taught out of our creativity as adults. Children are not afraid to place two unlikely characters in an adventure, such as a snowman and a dog. And sometimes it is challenging to realize that you have grown out of a generation and some jokes or moments you don’t understand anymore. But the fourth grader sitting in front of you is rolling over in laughter looking at you like, “Come on…you don’t get it?”

Owen Ever

Photo: Joshua Brasted. Owen Ever performing with Goat in the Road.

The first play out of the four performed in Snowman, Monster, Dog is called The Stolen Dog by Nyla Pete, now a sixth grader at St. Mary’s Academy. Company member Shannon Flaherty resembles her character Jasmine because both can be sneaky.

“Shannon has a very sneaky side and once in a while you can catch this twinkle in her eye and you know she is up to something,” Fulcher said. “A guilty smirk takes over her face and she laughs and laughs before you even know what she is up to. I love watching her play Jasmine because Shannon is a natural talent and comedic timing is her specialty. She loves playing the antagonist because sometimes it is fun to be bad.”

In March of 2013, GRP’s show Our Man was featured on the cover of American Theatre magazine. The company has been awarded competitive residencies around the country (The Berkshire Fringe Festival and the Ko Festival of Performance in Amherst, Mass.) and has received funding for its artistic projects from the Network of Ensemble Theaters, the National Performance Network, the Puffin Foundation, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.

Locally, the company has received six Big Easy Award Nominations and its podcast “This Sweaty City” was featured as part of the Tank Drama exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center.

Goat in the Road Productions is dedicated to the production of original and invigorating new works of theatre, dance, performance art, and educational programming. Find out more at www.goatintheroadproductions. org

Mary Rickard has been a regular contributor to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Orleans Advocate and Gambit, as well as newspapers and wire services in other locales. Feel free to send her comments or critiques at mary.rickard@sbcglobal.net.