York Theatre Takes Show On The Road To PS 40

The exclamation point in the York College play, “Istwa!” denotes excitement and that is exactly what Istwa! does -- elicits excitement from audiences both young and grown wherever it is performed.

Adapted and directed by York College professor, Tom Marion and a team of students, the play, based on four classic fairy tales, opened at the College’s Little Theatre in October 2010 to rave reviews.

But Dr. Lindamichelle Baron, a professor in the Department of Teacher Education, suggested to Marion that the play should be taken on the road to area elementary schools. Fast forward to December 18 and Marion and 12 student performers took the excitement with them to PS 40 in the York neighborhood, to the delight of the K-5 set. 

The hour-long production features Theatre Arts majors as well as Education and other majors, enrolled at York and was developed in their Theatre Practice class (TA215). Professor Marion picked the multi-cultural folktales and the students adapted the action and dialogue.  The cast’s cultural sensibilities of character and wry modern wit made for a unique and charming creation of each story.  

All the action takes place on a carpet with no props.  “The only ingredient needed is the imagination,” said Marion who explained that the method known as “story theatre,” was developed in the 1960s. Marion became interested in the art form while a theatre student under Joseph Hart, a now retired professor from Rutgers University. 

Some of students in the play were first-time performers but they did not disappoint. “They jumped right in and learned what it is to build an ensemble and what it means to dedicate themselves physically, vocally, and imaginatively to create a script that embodies a river, a chair…,” he said.

Narrated in part by York Theatre veteran Joseph Grasso, an upper senior with plans for law school, the show mesmerized the children at PS 40.  But according to York students the joy was mutual.

”It makes me more open to the public,” said Theatre Arts major, Arinze Nwogu, also an upper senior applying to graduate school at NYU. “It makes me more sociable and be a kid again. It was amazing. The kids enjoyed us. They had fun. It made them enjoy stories. It was like educational TV.”

Angelica Johnson felt the love as well.

“It is much different playing for the kids,” said Johnson, an Education major in her junior year. “Some jokes the adults at York laughed at and the kids did not; and some the kids got and the adults did not.”

But the play isn’t just about laughter. In the jest were kernels of truth, which was not lost on the children.

At the end of the play they were asked what they got from the presentation. One little girl summed it up: “’We learned that it is important to be kind,’” she said.

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