Holladay Children’s Theatre presents ‘A Unicorn, a Dinosaur, and a Shark Walk into a Book’Jun 30, 2023 12:34PM ● By Collette Hayes
Children practice real-world life skills such as communication, self-confidence, self-evaluation and creative thinking by participating in a theatrical production. (Photo credit Natalie Bradley, Holladay Arts Council)
Sponsored by the Holladay Arts Council, the Holladay Children’s Theatre brought to life on stage a short theatrical play that possibly was the happiest 15 minutes a person could experience. Adapted from the picture book by Jonathan Feske, “A Unicorn, a Dinosaur, and a Shark Walk into a Book” the production was performed June 9 in the Cottonwood Room at Holladay City Hall.
On a first-come, first-served basis, 12 hours after registration opened, a cast of 24 local children ages 6 through 12 were selected to participate in this year’s production of “A Unicorn, a Dinosaur, and a Shark Walk into a Book.” The entire children’s theatrical production was cast, practiced and presented within a brief one-week time frame.
“Creating a children’s theatre was Natalie Bradley’s idea,” executive director of the Holladay Arts Council, Sheryl Gillilan said. “Natalie had been on the arts council for a year and suggested a play for children. Everyone on the council agreed it was a great idea. The first performance in 2018 was based on the children’s book, ‘The Big Orange Splot,’ by Daniel Manus. Due to Covid, we took a break until 2022 at which time ‘Pirate Stew’ a book by Neil Gaiman was performed. Megan Atterman, a recent member of the arts council, joined with Natalie in this year’s production of ‘A Unicorn, a Dinosaur, and a Shark Walk into a Book.’ Registration for these plays is full approximately 12 hours after we post them, and there is always a waiting list. This year’s play is definitely 15 minutes of ‘Oh, I have faith in the world with these cute, earnest kids enjoying themselves on the stage!’”
Mayor Rob Dahle welcomed the audience to the theatre production and generously thanked the play directors and the arts council for continuously providing events that strengthen and build the Holladay community.
“It’s a great opportunity for young people to get away from their computers and phones and to be exposed to the arts,” Dahle said. “I want to thank the directors of the play, Natalie Bradley and Megan Atterman, for sharing their talents with these young people and for all of the hard work they have invested in this production.”
Atterman wrote the adapted play script and said she enjoyed the theatrics of the book, “A Unicorn, a Dinosaur, and a Shark Walk into a Book,” and the chance for young children to portray fun characters.
According to Atterman, during play practices, the children participated in many drama activities to help them warm up, to bring out their personalities and help them to feel comfortable on stage. The production time schedule was limited. The children met two hours a day for four days to learn their parts and block the scenes of the play.
“I was inspired by the book because my own children enjoyed checking it out from the library,” Atterman said. “When writing the script, it didn’t need a lot of adjustment to make it perfect for the stage. These kids got into it quickly. We began practicing on Monday. The children auditioned for their parts on Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday we had play practice, and then today, the children performed the play.”
Children can practice real-world life skills such as communication, self-confidence, self-evaluation and creative thinking by participating in a theatrical production. During the weeklong experience, children have the opportunity to interact with each other and learn to express themselves using these life skills on stage and then take what they have learned and apply the life skills in real-world settings.
“We have had young performers that suffer from severe anxiety sign up to participate,” Bradley said. “It’s heartwarming to see a child’s confidence grow on stage and to see how proud the parents are when they have previously thought they would never see their child perform in front of an audience. This program provides a safe easy space to learn to explore who you are through theatre.”
Holladay resident Charlotte Cook said her 10-year-old granddaughter Madeline has participated in the plays for the last two years and continuously talks about the experience during the week of preparation and performance.
“What a great opportunity for young people,” Cook said. “Each year Madeline has had such a positive experience participating in the performances. She has absolutely loved being included.”
When the children took their final bows on stage, it was evident they had developed a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
“You see it in that final moment, when the kids finish the play. You can see it in their faces. They are so proud of themselves, and that is the moment you are working for,” Atterman said. “They feel good about what they have accomplished. They have worked so hard, and they have had fun doing it.”λ