First children’s play in 15 years lends positive reactions

Among diverse props, wooden masks were utilized to portray villagers. Albienne (portrayed by Emily Ross) encounters the villagers early on in her 20-year journey back home.

The Salisbury Theater filled with children’s laughter, a well embraced reaction after 15 years since UAF’s last children’s production.

“This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing,” first produced in 2011 and written by Australian playwright Finnegan Kruckemeyer, tells the story of three young girls who are abandoned in the woods by their father after the tragic death of their mother. Each girl then ventures into the world, taking different paths of self-discovery until finding their way back home 20 years later.

Abigail Van Patter, the director, earned her Masters in Theatre for Young Audience Directing from University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Prior to moving to Fairbanks, she ran a children’s theater company, where she worked with inner-city kids.

This also wasn’t Van Patter’s first time directing a show in Fairbanks. Last spring, Van Patter had directed a show at the Children’s Museum. She was then approached by the theater department because of her experience in the field.

The three sisters are seen playing together early in the show. It isn’t until their mother’s death that they are separated once abandoned in the woods by their father.

“Certain directors, that is their specialty, and that’s what I direct,” said Van Patter, “and so when I came and they asked me to direct a show, […] it made sense for me to do it.”

Van Patter said she hopes UAF will consider doing more shows like this in the future.

Though successful, the production brought a variety of technical problems due to the unique nature of the set, which remained unchanged throughout the hour-long show. The production incorporated ladders, slides, shadow and wood puppets into the performance.

“A box isn’t a box,” said Lara Lotze, a film and performing arts student who worked on set design, lighting, props, and projection for the play. “It’s a ship and a table and a million different things. We built [the set] around versatility; that was the first challenge, making it as versatile as possible. But because of that, part of the delight of the show is how widely everything gets used.”

Beatrix (portrayed by Sarah Williams) is seen performing behind a screen.

In conjunction with the versatility of the set, Van Patter’s background as a movement director contributed to the overall performance of the show. Without such a bright and whimsical performance from the actors, the show likely wouldn’t be as engaging for a children’s audience.

Last Friday morning the cast performed for an all children’s audience. Isabella Sellers, a student in psychology, worked as the stage manager for the play. Sellers said the theater was packed, cramming 450 students into the auditorium to watch Friday morning’s show.

“[The children] loved it,” said Sellers. “They were laughing. It was really fun, and it’s been an honor to be able to do something like this.”

Despite the play having been written for younger audiences, college students could still be found sitting in the theatre. Devonte Smith, a history student, reacted positively to the performance.

“Judging by the kids’ reactions throughout the show, and my own reactions—like how I felt during the show—it definitely tapped into my inner child,” said Smith. “I thought it was cute.”

From left to right: performers Mary Conlin, Paloma Polanco, Sarah Williams and Emily Ross give a dramatic performance at last weekends show of “This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl does nothing.”

Some students also expressed an interest in seeing more shows geared toward a younger audience in the future, albeit not as frequently as other performances.

Syd Paulino, an English major said they were in favor of more children’s shows, even acknowledging the smaller audience appeal.

“I think it’s a sweet thing to offer for the community once in awhile,” Paulino added. “I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing one every season.”

“This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing” will have one more weekend of performances Friday, Feb. 16 – Sunday, Feb. 18. More information regarding the show and future performances can be found on the UAF Theatre website.

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