Grin and ‘bear’ it: ‘Arkansaw Bear’ kicks off Children’s Theatre Series at WKU

Florence Senior Nic Bagnum and Berea Freshman Olivia Jacobs rehearse with Greenwood High School student Lora White for their play ‘Arkansas Bear’. The Theatre for Young Adults will perform the play for school children October 18-20.

Kristina Burton

If one were to be asked what sort of impact they’d like to have over the course of their life, many would say that they want to leave a legacy.

WKU’s Department of Theatre and Dance opens its 2013 Children’s Theatre Series on Oct. 18 to 20 with “The Arkansaw Bear,” a story about doing just that — leaving a legacy.

Russellville senior Jamie Norton is the director of “The Arkansaw Bear.”

“I’m getting what’s called ‘prod points’ for directing this,” Norton said. “Each semester, every theatre student has to fulfill a certain number of duties regarding the shows here. That could include anything from directing, to acting, to running the sound or light board, and this factors into those points for me.”

Norton said it was an assignment in a Children’s Theatre class she took last year that led her to direct this production.

“As part of our assignment, we had to select a play and put forth a directing proposal for it,” Norton said. “Then they chose some out of that group and some from other people who weren’t in the class, and we got to do the show we wanted and it was great.”

Norton said she really likes “The

Arkansaw Bear” because of the depth it has.

“It’s not just a fluffy piece of children’s theatre with no meaning that doesn’t say anything to kids,” Norton said. “I really like that it has something important to say to kids, while still allowing them to have fun and enjoy the piece.”

Norton said the play is about a young girl named Tish who is dealing with her grandfather’s imminent death.

“To kind of escape that, she goes into a fantasy world and meets a dancing bear who is also running from death,” Norton said. “Together, they kind of figure out how to face death, which is an issue that comes to everybody at some point.”

Berea freshman Olivia Jacobs plays the role of six-year-old Tish.

“I think for me the highlight has been really getting to play,” Jacobs said. “Doing something that’s very serious, but at the same time being a child, is a good way to sort of reflect on things in a way that I don’t usually get to.”

Jasper, Ind. freshman Shalyn Grow plays Star Bright, an eccentric star that grants wishes and is always excited about everything.

“Cast unity has been a highlight for me because it is a small cast and I’ve learned to break free out of choreography, which is something I struggle with,” Grow said. “I’ve learned to change up my performances and get comfortable with my cast members because you have to feed off of each other’s energy.”

Norton said the highlight for her has been getting to work with some of the freshmen in their first role here at WKU.

“It’s been really neat to kind of look back and see where I was four years ago and be able to pass on a little bit of what I’ve learned to somebody who is just coming into it,” Norton said.

Grow hopes children can come and enjoy the show and be able to leave feeling okay.

“I hope they feel at peace with the journey that we took, and that hopefully they enjoyed the journey with us,” Grow said.

Jacobs said the influence a show like “The Arkansaw Bear” can have on someone is a great reason to come and watch it.

“Art like this can have such an impact on a child, or even an older person, as far as teaching a really valuable lesson, and helping them to develop skills to take care of things in their lives, and learn how to handle things,” Jacobs said.

Grow said the main idea of the show is a reason to be interested in seeing it.

“One of my lines that I get to say is, ‘With every ending, there is a new beginning,’” Grow said. “I feel like that just kind of encompasses the idea of the entire show.”

Norton said theatre for kids can be fun and meaningful all at the same time.

“Come see for yourself and maybe you’ll take something away from it,” Norton said.

Times for all shows in the Children’s Theatre Series are Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. Performances are in the Lab Theatre of WKU’s Gordon Wilson Hall. All tickets are $5.

Tickets for the Children’s Theatre Series are available online at or through the box office at (270) 745-3121.