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Holladay Journal

Holladay Arts’ Page to Stage program gives kids a creative performing experience

Jul 01, 2022 08:42AM ● By Heather Lawrence

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Children from Holladay and other areas performed an original production of “Pirate Stew” on June 10. The performance at Holladay City Hall came after just one week of workshops with director Meighan Smith. Smith adapted the Neil Gaiman book into an ensemble play.

“Everyone has their go-to art form, and theatre is mine. Kids need all kinds of art, and that’s why I do this. It’s the first time we’ve been able to do it again since the pandemic,” Smith said.

In Smith’s Page to Stage program, she adapts a children’s book into a performance piece. Smith acted as a narrator and every performer had a few lines.

The workshop rehearsals were free and open to children entering first through seventh grades. All 20 openings filled up.

“I encourage creativity. The kids are involved with the staging and their costumes and props. If it’s their first time performing, I want them to realize, ‘This is fun and I can do this,’” Smith said.

Smith chose the 2020 children’s book “Pirate Stew” because it has many equal parts instead of one lead character. The book is written by English author Neil Gaiman (“Coraline,” “Stardust”) and is illustrated by Chris Riddell.

In the story, two kids are left home while their parents go out for the evening. Their babysitter is pirate Long John Macron, ship’s cook.  Soon, a pirate crew is in the house trying to figure out what to feed the kids for dinner. They make a stew, the house becomes a sailing ship, they eat doughnuts and then return home.  

Scout Wilkins loved performing in the show.  

“It was fun to think about the book in a different kind of way. We had to be creative. We were all in charge of getting our own pirate costumes, which we just made up from things around the house,” Scout said.  

Scout’s family members came to watch her in the show. Her mom Rachel Matthews said it’s a good program.

“It’s a fast week of workshops and rehearsals, but it’s fun for the kids to connect especially with kids from other schools. Getting the costumes and props together at home was like extra homework, but it’s nice to see them work together,” Matthews said.

Scout showed off her homemade props. “I made a doughnut from a balloon and a leek out of green paper,” she said.

Many kids know each other from neighborhood, school or church groups, like Scout’s neighborhood friend Paisley Stillman.  

“I love acting. I’ve been in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and I’ve taken community theater classes. I was supposed to be in the Harry Potter play adaptation here two years ago, but it was canceled because of the pandemic,” Paisley said.

The kids were happy to be back in the program and back on stage, even if it did all happen within five short days. 

“There were so many kids here and just five days of practice—I’m genuinely shocked we pulled it off,” Paisley said.

Paisley’s pirate costume included her dad’s bandana and her mom’s boots.   

“I’m wearing five pairs of socks inside so the boots will fit!”

She also sported a parrot sewn to the shoulder of her shirt by her mom Sarah Stillman.

“She spent forever sewing this on. Everything else I found around the house. They didn’t say, ‘Go out and buy this.’ They told us to be creative,” Paisley said.

Paisley proved she was a professional when her ‘lime’ ingredient—a prop made from a small green balloon—didn’t want to go into the stew pot while she delivered her lines. She calmly picked it up and put it in again and the show went on.

Both Scout and Paisley had a great time working with Smith and the other kids. Holladay Arts Council member Natalie Bradley is eager to continue making these great opportunities happen for kids, and Smith is on board to do another show in the future.

“For most kids, this is their first time doing anything like this. The best thing that could come of this is for them to go home and talk to their parents and say, ‘I want to do more theater!’” Smith said.