Kate King Turner
Sun Lakes Community Theatre’s (SLCT) well-loved Children’s Theater is back in Chandler Unified School District 80 (CUSD80) elementary schools, and the reaction of students and teachers is overwhelmingly positive. Thank-you notes are piled up on the director’s desk, with brilliantly colored pictures of Horton the Elephant in a tree or the clown doing magic tricks (among others), all sent from grateful students who enjoyed the 25-minute, brightly costumed, energy-filled, live theater performance.
But it’s not just fun and games! Prior to appearing, the group sends the classroom teachers an Arizona Standards-Aligned Enrichment Lesson Idea packet that provides lessons in math, vocabulary, reading, and writing, which the teachers use after the performance to help students get the most from the experience. This year’s play, based on a Dr. Suess book, is Horton Hatches the Egg. It provides a moral about keeping promises, and the kids are involved in telling the story, with lots of interactive shouts and laughter. Three lucky teachers are recruited into the story as well, helping Mayzie the Bird to play on the beach while Horton the Elephant sits on Mayzie’s nest to hatch her baby bird. Lots of animals are involved, as are a group of hunters who are intent on capturing Horton. The kids love it.
Out of 30 elementary schools in the CUSD80, 22 of them will have had the pleasure of seeing Horton Hatches the Egg by the last performance on May 2, which also happens to be the birthday of Dr. Suess and Read Across America Day. The cast has a minimum of 11 actors, many of whom are double cast—meaning they may play different characters in different shows—allowing each actor a chance to explore their acting abilities as a different animal or as the narrator of the show. Director Sandy Bocynesky has been involved in the show since 2013 and has been directing it since 2016, and she was thrilled to get back in the classrooms after the pandemic kept the group from performing for two years. “When you see the reaction of these kids, you can’t stop smiling,” she said. “Once one of our senior citizen actors does one show, they are hooked, because it’s just so fun and fulfilling to see the children’s joy.”
The show is completely self-contained and takes only 15 minutes to set up and tear down. The only requirement of the school is to provide a multi-purpose room or stage, a music stand, and a chair. SLCT provides everything else. All the actors are volunteer residents of Sun Lakes and members of SLCT. There are two sound technicians involved and one transportation person to haul the equipment and costumes. There is no fee for the performance. The Greater Sun Lakes Community Foundation generously awarded a grant a few years ago to help support the program, and SLCT does it as a service to the community.
For more information on this program and other activities of SLCT, go to www.slctinfo.com.