WOU in the news: Explore The Fantasy

MONMOUTH — Journey back to a time when the whole world was an oyster — and found deep within a toy box — at Western Oregon University’s spring play, “Frankie’s Flights of Fancy.”

“Kids come up with the craziest, fun things,” said Belladina Starr, who plays Frankie in the devised play. “Putting myself in the shoes of a child like that, it’s like, ‘I can do whatever; I’m a little kid,’ it’s really fun.”

The play was created by Western students, from the conception, writing of the script, making props, casting and production.

Andrew Thornton was part of the process from the beginning. Now, he works with Edgar Lopez to bring a two-man puppet to life.

“We wanted to do a childhood fantasy,” he said. “We thought it would be fun to get inside a child’s mind.”

Puppets were inspired by traditional Japanese bunraku theater.

In the play, Frankie takes the audience on six adventures, inspired by various things found inside her giant toy box. Actors wear masks and use puppets to illustrate the parts — no lines are spoken by the actors. Instead, recordings and music help tell the story.

“No one says anything,” said Natalie Piper, assistant director and Western senior. “No one makes vocal sounds.”

It made the audition tricky because actors were judged on how well they could express a situation physically, Piper said. Students were cast based on how clear their movements were to understand what they were doing.

For Starr, playing a masked child has been a challenge for a number of reasons, not the least of which is restricted vision.

“It’s super crazy and weird because I’ve got this much vision,” she said, making circles with her thumb and fingers and holding them up to her eyes. “And it’s very physical, and so much different than anything I’ve ever done.”

The other big challenge was playing and moving like an 8-year-old child, Starr said.

“Frankie’s” is a family friendly play, and on purpose. Starr and Thornton agree writing a play the whole family could enjoy was part of the goals from the beginning.

“It’s not a children’s show,” Piper said. “But everyone, all ages should enjoy it. There are things that I still think are funny.”

Because it’s a devised piece, the actors and director Michael Phelps are still working things out together, Thornton said.

“Phelps is good at finding the little things that make people laugh, because they make us laugh, and we want to share that joy,” he said.

Childhood Dreamland

What: Frankie’s Flights of Fancy, produced by Western Oregon University’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

Where: Western Oregon University’s Rice Auditorium.

When: Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (today) through Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee showing on Saturday.

Admission: $12 general; $7 students; $10 seniors.

For more information: 503-838-8461.

Polk County Itemizer-Observer
by Emily Mentzer