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Theatre for Young Audiences Presents 'The Arkansaw Bear'

February 18, 2009

The Theatre for Young Audiences production has been an annual event on the OBU campus since 1993. Each spring, Shawnee-area students attend matinee performances of this production. OBU Theatre seeks to present plays designed to entertain and inspire younger audiences in the art of live theatre. Plays are chosen for the values in their themes, including honesty, integrity, and preparing young people to recognize the good and evil of the world.

"The Theatre for Young Audiences production of 'The Arkansaw Bear' provides an opportunity for more than 2,500 area school children to experience live theatre," said Dr. Paul Hammond, OBU dean and professor of music, Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts. "OBU Theatre faculty and students believe that this is an important part of their mission. We hope this will create a lifelong interest in theatre for these young people."

"The Arkansaw Bear" tells the story of Tish, a young girl who, saddened and bewildered at her grandfather's approaching death, runs to her "special tree." There, in a world of fantasy provided by her wishing on a star, she meets the World's Greatest Dancing Bear. The star is old - like her grandfather - and is running away from death. In trying to help him, Tish begins to understand the meaning of both life and death, which helps her to cope with her own sadness.

Delightfully theatrical, with music, magic and dance, "The Arkansas Bear" has been enthusiastically applauded by children's and family audiences. The work is written by Aurand Harris, the most-produced playwright for young audiences in the United States, with more than 30 published plays to his credit. Before his death in 1996, he was the first children's playwright to receive a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The performance will be directed by OBU alum Andra Dunn, a 2004 graduate from Garber, Okla. The cast includes Ansley Elliott, a sixth-grade student from Tecumseh, Okla., playing Tish; Elliott Freeman, a sophomore anthropology major from Paola, Kan., playing Star Bright; Kate Rutledge, a senior theatre major from Carrollton, Texas, as Mime; Troy Ford, a sophomore business major from Wagoner, Okla., as the Great Ringmaster; Maggie Maltsberger, a freshman English major from Oologah, Okla., as Little Bear; and Colin Smart, a senior theatre major from San Antonio, Texas, as the World's Greatest Dancing Bear.

Production crew members for the performance include Kendra Watkins, stage manager; Cambria Lauderdale, assistant stage manager; and Eric Stimple, assistant stage manager and lighting designer; James Criswell, technical director; Taunia Logan, scenic designer; Katelyn Elms, costume designer; Lacy Hutchinson, make-up designer and publicity manager; and Kate Rutledge, property manager.

Tickets are on sale for $8 for adults, $6 for students and $2 for children under age 12. Located in Sarkeys Telecommunication Center, the OBU Box Office is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or call (405) 878-2347.