'Into the Woods Jr.' presented by MSD and Fresh Academicz
Many times, people go to the theater for entertainment, but they don’t consciously think about the fact that since ancient times, another purpose of theater was to impact society.
Ijamsville, Md.-based Friends Meeting School hopes, through its productions, tries to do both.
On Sunday, March 11, at 1:30 p.m., the school will present “Into the Woods Jr.” at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown. The performance will be a collaboration with Maryland School for the Deaf and Fresh Academicz. Proceeds will benefit the Western Branch of the Maryland Food Bank in Hagerstown.
Brenda Yankaskas, performing arts director at Friends Meeting School, said the school, which offers experiential education based in the Quaker tradition, has a program called Students Acting for the Community — Feeding the Hungry through the Arts.
“Our productions typically benefit an organization. What we do is try to give back to the community through stewardship through the performing arts,” Yankaskas said. “We invite other community groups to perform with us.”
Friends Meeting School has worked with Frederick, Md.-based Maryland School for the Deaf in the past. Performances included scenes with deaf students using sign language, which was voice-interpreted by dramatic interpreters. During scenes with hearing actors, the interpreters would sign to interpret what was being spoken in the play.
The structure of this year’s show will be a little different, Yankaskas said, with MSD students performing three fairy tales on their own with interpreting by voice interpreters to open the show. ASL Interpreter Corps Sign Language Interpreting Services of Sykesville, Md., will provide interpreters. The tales will include “The True Story of Red Riding Hood,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” and “The Three Little Pigs.”
Then dancers with hip-hop dance studio Fresh Academicz will take to the stage. According to its promotional literature, the organization has a mission to reach inner-city youth through music that does not “curse, disrespect women, or denigrate others.”
“We want to build morals, values and character, to teach inner city youth that being cool and relevant doesn’t mean compromising integrity. Yesterday’s values with today’s sound,” the event program reads. “Fresh Academics aims to reach youth one child at a time.”
The first act of the production also will feature a presentation about Hunger Relief by a representative from Maryland Food Bank.
“We want people to learn more about the needs in our area,” Yankaskas said. “We welcome people of all ages to come help us support those who might live right next door to us and just be in need of a helping hand.”
Following intermission, a cast of about 40 students from Friends Meeting School will present “Into the Woods Jr.” Actors will range from kindergarten age to young high schoolers and the production will utilize digital scenery. The musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine combines the plots of Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, examining the characters’ wishes and journeys and their consequences. Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood are some of the recognizable characters features in the show.
“Every year, we try to choose a show that would be of general interest to students and families in the community. ‘Into the Woods’ has interest to families and a lot of lessons for people to learn,” she said.
The program highlights some of those lessons, such as “Don’t be misled, stay straight ahead, and never talk to strangers; It takes two to get through; How far would you go to reach your goal?; Keep your children safe, but is a tower really necessary?; Do unto others as you would have them do unto you; and be careful what you wish for,” Yankaskas said.
“We feel it’s good, family-friendly entertainment,” she said. “It’s really not just one play. It really is a community event.”
Yankaskas said the event is an opportunity for the audience to be entertained, but also to “make a difference.”
“So many who go hungry are less than the age of 12. When you are hungry, you can’t perform your best in school,” she said. “So coming to this production can help put food into the life of someone. It will help them become stronger and do better. So we hope that people will help support our efforts.”
Top photo: Hailey Bullman as Little Red Riding Hood on the left and Savanna Branham as Cinderella star in Friends Meeting School production of “Into the Woods Jr.” (Photo by Shannon Lee)