Children's play offers lesson about home and family

Thursday, March 19, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Members of TRYPS, or Theater Reaching Young People and Schools, will perform the company's 48th production Friday. Jill Womack, the artistic executive director, said the group prides itself on bringing theater into the lives of Columbia families.

The show "Alexander Who's Not, Not, Not, Not, Not, Not Going to Move!" was adapted by Judith Viorst from her children book, "Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move." Viorst was inspired by her youngest of three sons, Alexander, throughout her writing.

If You Go

What: "Alexander Who is Not, Not, Not, Not, Not, Not Going to Move!" a play presented by TRYPS

When: 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Columbia College's Launer Auditorium, 901 Rogers St.

Admission: $7 general and $3 lapseats for children under 2. Box office opens at theater one hour prior to curtain. Advanced tickets on sale at Hy-Vee, all Callaway Banks and Columbia's First National Bank downtown. For information, call TRYPS at 449-4536.

In the show, Alexander finds out his father has taken a job in a different city and the whole family has to move. Alexander fears losing friends, his soccer team and the familiarity of his home. His parents try to convince Alexander he will like his new home, but he stubbornly refuses to go.

Plays performed by TRYPS last about one hour, enabling young children to stay alert and watch the shows. As part of their usual run, productions are performed for schools, and students from central Missouri are bused in.

"The live musicians, artwork on the set and the actors themselves keep the younger kids' attention," Womack said. "It's a great way to introduce theater to families."

This show encourages literacy, Womack said: "It is based on a story children can read at home." 

The TRYPS Web site provides study guides for all productions. The study guides include teacher, parent and student evaluations, tips on audience etiquette, information on the author and a vocabulary list.

"It helps parents not worry about content," Womack said. "It also teaches kids vocabulary."

The eight actors performing this play are Womack's "senior actors," meaning they have been with the group the longest; they needed only 14 rehearsals over two weeks. Womack said normally, the shows have 18 rehearsals spread out over a semester.

"It's been a pretty demanding schedule for them," Womack said. "They have done a good job with it, though."

At rehearsal on Monday evening, the actors were energetic and excited. "We get to act like 5-year-olds again," said Laura Oberbeck, a junior at Rock Bridge High School.

Katie Wallace, a senior at Rock Bridge, who said she has been accepted to the theater program at New York University next year, described the experience as "99 percent fun and about 1 percent work."

Naomi La Fond, a sophomore at MU, said most of the cast members for "Alexander" have done productions together for five years.

"It's a lot harder to act without the camaraderie that we have," she said. "We feed off each other's energy and are able to trust the people on stage. There's that level of improv needed that makes our shows great."

TRYPS, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in September, moved to the Columbia Mall in July 2008. The group helps children and young adults learn to prepare themselves for rehearsals so they are not nervous, Womack said.

"We really try to be so encouraging," she said. "Theater should be fun, especially for kids." 

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