Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Hundred Dresses Discussion Deal

One of the most rewarding parts of our production of The Hundred Dresses so far has been the talk back sessions following the play, where the audience has an opportunity to ask questions of the actors. Often when we do talk backs, the questions are more technical - how long does it take you to learn your lines? was it hard to learn the sword fight? But for this play, the questions deal more with the story, because its themes of bullying and friendship really resonate with kids.

We want to encourage these kinds of conversations, and so we are offering a special group play and discussion package:

Seattle Children’s Theatre’s production of The Hundred Dresses is a wonderful springboard into conversation with the children in your life. Whether it’s the difficulties faced by immigrants or the ever-present threat of bullying, this play tackles these topics in an engaging and entertaining way. To help facilitate this conversation we are offering a special package to groups of 10 or more. Choose one of the special performances below and receive a FREE facilitated discussion moderated by either a KCSARC or SCT educator.

This special discussion package includes tickets to the show, a meeting space at SCT, and curriculum materials, prepared by SCT’s Education Programs, for you to take away.

Saturdays at 2pm—March 22nd, March 29th, April 5th
Sundays at 5:30pm—March 23rd, March 30th, April 6th

ABOUT THE PLAY: Based on the Newberry Honor book by Eleanor Estes, The Hundred Dresses introduces us to Wanda Petronski, a young girl who just wants to make friends. But in 1930s small town America, a Polish immigrant doesn’t easily fit in. When Maddie’s best friend starts to tease Wanda, Maddie knows this isn’t right and realizes that allowing her friend to be a bully is just as bad as acting that way herself. Determined not to let her fear get the best of her again, Maddie braves the scorn of her classmates and stands up to them, making an unlikely friend in the bargain.

To order your group tickets, please contact School & Group Sales Manager, Heather Botts, at (206) 443 – 0807 or email her at

Don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy an incredible and moving play, fully engaging your children in the themes and message of the story

SCT & OnDemand

If you happen to have Comcast Digital Cable and live in the Seattle area, you can check out Seattle Children's Theatre OnDemand!

Back in January, we hosted a film crew from Comcast for their Best of the City segment. They were a fun, lively group (the oldest people I've ever had to tell "No, seriously, if you try and play with those Neverending Story puppets, I'm going to lose my job!"), and you can check out the fruit of their labor in Comcast's OnDemand programming section under Get Local > Best of the City > Kids & Family Fun.

Special thanks to SCT Education Director Karen Sharp and Education Administrative Coordinator Anthony Winkler for agreeing to appear on camera.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Our First Guest Reviewer

Behind the Curtain welcomes guest reviewer, Abby B., who was kind enough to agree to check out "The Hundred Dresses" opening weekend and share with us, and you, what she thought.

Choosing the hard right over the easy wrong is Maddie’s struggle in the Seattle Children’s Theatre’s production of Eleanor Estes The Hundred Dresses. Written for the stage by Mary Hall Surface and directed by Allison Narver, The Hundred Dresses is an charming show about a young Polish girl, Wanda (Sharia Pierce), who, in an attempt to fit in with her peers, mentions that she has a hundred dresses. This is so unbelievable to the other girls because they have only seen Wanda wear the same dress every day to school that they start a teasing game. Maddie (Betsy Schwartz) feels horrible about the game but she does not have the courage to stand up to her best friend Peggy (Sarah Harlett) because Maddie is also poor and afraid that Peggy would turn the teasing game on to her.

Sarah Harlett, Emily Cedergreen, Troy Fischnaller, Tim Gouran and Betsy Schwartz in "The Hundred Dresses". Photo by Chris Bennion.

Believable as 10 year olds, the actors draw us on to the playground to witness how easily miscommunication can blow up into a series of mean fun and hurt feelings. They remind us that if we take the time to listen, to get to know to each other and to look past our differences, we can make a new friend or two. We also learn through Maddie after Wanda moves away that it may be too late to say we’re sorry but it’s never to late to learn from our actions or inactions so we do not make the same mistake again.

As always in the “less is more” fashion of SCT, the sets, lights and sounds add a delightfully seamless connection to the action on the stage. Major “props” go to the actors though who kept the audience so engaged in the story that when a tree was struck during the second act into the overhead curtains, it was hardly noticed.

I highly recommend this production of The Hundred Dresses to all my peers and their parents. Not only was it fun to watch but it has opened up many discussions of how at times in our lives we all have been a Wanda or a Maddie, and even at times a Peggy.

"The Hundred Dresses” is now running at the Seattle Children’s Theatre until April 6th, 2008. Ticket prices range from $17 to $33. Visit for more information.

Guest reviewer and veteran SCT audience-member Abby B. is 10 1/2 yrs old and lives in Bonney Lake, WA.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Braving the elements

There are those that believe the actor's life is a glamorous one, and there may be days when they are right. The day pictured below, our first PR photo shoot for The Hundred Dresses, was not one of those days.

We needed an action shot, which would have been nearly impossible to capture under direct lights in the theatre (the shadows wreak havoc). So, it had to be outside, and when the scheduled day arrived, the weather decided not to cooperate. We had to scrap the original site because it was too far from any shelter, and moved instead to one of our rooftop patios.

It was windy. And wet. And cold. Here our photographer, Chris Bennion, works with Betsy Schwartz, Sharia Pierce, Emily Cedergreen and Sarah Harlett. I believe Sharia's face tells the story pretty well.

And we simply aren't the kind of people that let actors suffer in solitude, and so we braved the elements along with them.

This is director Allison Narver's (left) first show with us. We nearly promised her that our outdoor shoots aren't always like this, until we remembered back to the washed-out High School Musical shoot in the fall.

The hardworking and patient cast diligently worked through take after take, playing 4-Square in a near-squall.

Production Assistant Deb Lyon may have been the smartest of us all, making a dash for the relative warmth of indoors.

The actor's life isn't always glamorous, and perhaps is only rarely so. But, they are a hardworking bunch, and game for just about anything. For them, "the show must go on" is more credo than cliche.

We hope you take the opportunity to reward that diligence, and enjoy the fruits of their labor, by coming to see The Hundred Dresses, which opens tomorrow night, February 22nd, 2008.


...our writing contest for The Hundred Dresses was not a stellar success. We received no entries.

I blame myself for coming up with the idea too late, and not getting word out quickly enough. Not that it will stop me from trying, I just promise to try better next time.

And, there was, as there so often is in this crazy business we call theatre, an unexpected savior. A long-time veteran member of our audience has stepped forward, dragging her mother and sister along, to volunteer to write a review of The Hundred Dresses for this blog.

Check back next week for her review. I, for one, can't wait, because I sat in on dress rehearsal last night, and I think we're going to knock her out.

Jim Jewell, SCT PR Manager and Blog Moderator

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Hundred Dresses Writing Contest!

In The Hundred Dresses, young Maddie learns the value of courage, of standing up for what she believes is right, even in the face of opposition from friends. Certainly for Maddie, and I think for all of us, these moments of courage come to define our lives.

What was your moment of courage? In 150 words or less, tell us about a time in your life that required courage, when you felt brave. We’ll post our five favorite responses here and a final winner will be selected from those five by The Hundred Dresses playwright Mary Hall Surface. The winner will receive an invitation to attend (with up to three guests) the opening night performance of SCT’s production of The Hundred Dresses on Friday, February 22, 2008 at 7pm (winner may choose another date if unable to attend opening night).

Email entries to Jim Jewell, SCT PR Manager and Behind the Curtain moderator, at by 5pm on Friday, February 15. Winners will be announced Monday, February 18.

General rules and stipulations:
• Contest open to anyone 18 years and younger.
• The decision of the judges is final.
• Finalists and winner will be identified on the blog by first name and last initial only.
• Prize is not transferrable. If the winner is unable to attend The Hundred Dresses, a new winner will be chosen from the remaining finalists.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The details are the thing

"That willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I've always been intrigued by the term "suspension of disbelief," and think it is particularly useful when thinking about theatre and stagecraft. As theatre artists, we aren't trying to get audiences to believe they are actually in Fantastica or Denmark or East High, yet at the same time profound disbelief would undermine the compact between audience and artist, and could rob the experience of emotional gravity.

What we try to achieve is the suspension of disbelief, that state in which the audience willingly abandons skepticism in order to participate in the story. Often, the key to achieving suspension of disbelief is in the details.

The bit of stagecraft below from our current production of Hamlet is a perfect example. Our adaptation was written by SCT Artistic Associate Rita Giomi for five actors, meaning that only Connor Toms as Hamlet handles a single role. As the other actors handle two or three roles each, none could be spared to act as the corpse of Ophelia in the play's second act. And so this responsibility fell to our props department.

It would have been reasonable to expect a glorified scarecrow, clothes filled with stuffing and wrapped in a shroud. But such a prop wouldn't have the heft, drape or exact shape of an actual corpse, so the talented folks in props built this skeleton to fill out the body shape.

Note in particular the fully articulated spine, which was key to getting our poor, dead Ophelia to sag realistically in her brother's arms. And the exercise of creating the entire skeleton ensured she would have the proper proportions.

Wrapped in her death shroud, this is how the final Ophelia looked:

In this last photo, the Ophelia corpse is shown with Marne Cohen Vance, who filled in as Prop Shop Manager over the winter holidays.

We're quite fond of our fake Ophelia here, and have even christened her with a nickname. One of the above photos contains a huge clue as to what that nickname is - think you can figure it out? The first person to post the correct nickname in the comments section will receive a voucher for a free ticket to Hamlet.