COLUMBIA — This week, the Columbia Fire Department joined forces with Theater Reaching Young People and Schools (TRYPS) to perform at ten Columbia elementary schools.
But Smokey the Bear wasn’t the star. Instead, TRYPS relied on an advocate for fire safety with more ash than fire expertise: Cinderella.
The theme was “Practice Your Escape Plan,” and the performances were part of this year’s National Fire Prevention Week, which has been marked every year since 1922 and is the longest-running safety program in the nation. It’s timed to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, which occurred Oct. 9, 1871.
In Columbia, this was the fourth year that TRYPS has performed skits for Fire Prevention Week. The title of this year’s skit, written by director Jill Womack, was “Cinderella’s Great Escape.” After ten hours of practicing, the skit’s three young actresses were ready for their debut.
In it, a prince decrees that all houses in the kingdom must have a fire escape plan. So, it’s up to Cinderella to teach her two wicked, and apparently slow-witted, stepsisters what do in case of a fire in their cottage.
It isn’t easy work. When Cinderella asks what they would do if there were a fire, one sister answers, “Put on my best dress and wait for a handsome prince to rescue me!”
Although the skit takes many slapstick turns along the way, the actresses stressed — and then re-stressed — all the important points of escaping from a house fire. At the Stephens College Children’s School, many of the youngest children were enamored of Cinderella and even followed along with the gestures involved in the performance, like spelling out 911 with their bodies.
“We try to make it creatively exciting so that they remember it,” Womack said.
After the skit was over, Lt. Debbie Sorrell of the Fire Department stressed the importance of fire safety, including having an escape route and a planned meeting spot. Volunteers who wanted to practice “stop, drop and roll” were rewarded with stickers and other prizes.
Once the children had filed out of the room, they had one more treat: an up-close look at a fire engine.
On its Web site, the Fire Department gives guidelines to safely escape a house fire. Families looking to learn more about fire safety can go to gocolumbiamo.com/Fire/Educational.
As the performance ended, a speaker asked if the kids would remember to “stop, drop and roll” in the future. A little girl in the front row shouted, “I promise!”