Park City Improv shoots from the hip with ‘Improvised Fairy Tales’
Most children in preschool and beyond know the tale of “The Three Little Pigs.”
But do they know the version where one of the houses the Big Bad Wolf destroys was made of cheese? And do they know the reason why the wolf decided to blow down the house was because he was lactose intolerant?
The five actors of Park City Improv did, and they shared this story during the family-friendly production of “Improvised Fairy Tales” a few weeks ago at the Park City Library.
The actors — Nate Sears, Nicole Marcks, her husband Tom Shannon, Katrina Kmak, her husband John Burdick — love to add their own flair to these timeless tales and get the audience to play along.
“It’s fun for kids because we are able to make fun of the fairy tales and nursery rhymes they know,” Sears said. “It’s also fun for adults, because we also get to spoof things that only parents and adults will know, and get them involved as well.”
The next “Improvised Fairy Tales” performance will be from 3-4 p.m. on Saturday, July 7, at the Park City Library, 1255 Park Ave. The event is free and open to the public.
While it’s an improvised performance, the actors do use guidelines, including a concept called the “story spine,” which was created by playwright Kenn Adams in 1991, Shannon said.
“It starts — ‘once upon a time this happened every day until one day this other thing happened,” he said. “It’s a basic storytelling frame that Pixar, Disney and other production companies use.”
The Story Spine allows kids in the Park City Improv’s audiences to build their own stories while learning life skills, Sears said.
“With improv, we guide or side-coach the kids,” he said. “We give them an opportunity to present their own ideas when we ask what they would do in certain situations, and that helps them with critical thinking.”
Improv also helps children adapt to different situations.
“It helps them develop a confidence to roll with the punches,” Marcks said. “That’s what improv is. It’s the ability to face whatever rolls your way.”
Kmak, who is the youth services librarian at the Park City Library, said “Improvised Fairy Tales” is also a way to instill literacy in children.
“One of the best things for early literacy is to play with kids,” she said. “The Park City Improv provides a wonderful opportunity for children to see adults playing. It’s also good for the kids to get involved with the play as well.”
Shannon said it’s healthy for children to see adults acting out comedic scenes.
“I read something the other day about what is essential to an improviser, and the first thing was the ability to look silly,” he said.”Many kids don’t have the opportunity to see adults look silly or vulnerable. So, that is also a value for kids as well.”
Shannon also said when Park City Improv performs “Improvised Fairy Tales,” each actor has to be aware of how they are presenting the stories to the children.
“We don’t talk down to the kids and we don’t have this teacher/student dynamic,” he said. “We are playing along with them.”
Marcks, who said Park City Improv is working on a study guide to accompany future “Improvised Fairy Tales” performances, said it’s important for children to use their imaginations.
“There have been scientific studies that show children need more time to play and make up their own stories,” she said. “There is something about fairy tales and magic. These are keys to bring improv to kids.”
The performances also help children will learn the basic structures of storytelling, Kmak said.
“They will eventually learn what a protagonist is,” she said. “They will learn what an antagonist is, and they will also start to understand story structure.”
So when families attend an “Improvised Fairy Tales” performance, parents can also learn storytelling tools to help their children, Kmak said.
Park City Improv is also developing an “Improvised Fairy Tales” study guide, Marcks said.
“We hope that have it done by Saturday, but we will for sure have it at future performances,” she said.
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