A 1,500-year-old story of a bold lion and a timid mouse offers fresh, relevant insight to youngsters today in the age of harassment and bullying.
Actors Mark Sherwood and Camille Upshaw of the North Carolina-based Bright Star Touring Theatre share that perspective. And they will share that tale and other timeless ones Friday when they present the children’s 45-minute production “Aesop’s Fables” at 6 p.m. at Old National Bank’s First Fridays For Families series.
The nonprofit Columbus Area Arts Council coordinates the free shows aimed at youngsters, primarily for kindergartners through third-graders.
“There’s almost always a bully at every school,” Upshaw said as she and Sherwood traveled along the Tennessee-North Carolina border last week en route to a show.”
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In this story of the lion and the mouse, kids get to see these two characters come together and hash out their differences and become friends.
“And I feel that’s very important for every child to see. And it’s so important for Mark and I to really home in on that at the end of that fable.”
The duo performs at schools, museums, libraries, community centers and other venues. With a few rapid costume and voice changes, their presentations spotlight character traits from kindness to trustworthiness.
“Those are the kind of things I think you want to teach any kid, regardless of what your school curriculum covers,” Sherwood said. “And sometimes teachers tell us afterward that there’s benefit in the students hearing these lessons from another voice (other than theirs).”
Besides the lion and the mouse, the pair will highlight fables such as “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “The Fox and the Grapes.” So Upshaw and Sherlock must move through stories with the speed of … well, the hare to squeeze everything into their show. So they’ve learned to quickly move from one character to another.
“With an audience full of kids, that actually helps,” Sherwood said. “It’s a benefit because the characters are all so varied and different.”
Plus Sherwood and Upshaw interact with the audience and bring youngsters onstage to become a part of the presentation.
“That helps a lot of the kids stay interested, because they see other children up there,” Upshaw said.
“Plus,” Upshaw said, “I think there’s really something to be said for seeing a story come to life right in front of you. I feel like than then the children are more involved than merely having a teacher or someone explain a story to you.
“There’s more excitement.”
And apparently, plenty of curiosity. Youngsters sometimes ask after this particular show if any of the fables are based upon actual events anywhere.
“We tell them that, while they may not be based on anything like that, the things that these stories teach are things we need to know in actual, real, everyday life,” Upshaw said.
And apparently, it matters little if that’s centuries ago or today.
“These stories have been around for more than a thousand years,” Sherwood said. “And for a very good reason.”
What: The Columbus Area Arts Council presenting Old National Bank’s First Fridays For Families free series. Bright Star Touring Theatre will perform “Aesop’s Fables.”
When: 6 p.m. Friday.
Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St. in Columbus.
Information: 812-376-2539 or artsincolumbus.org.