Initially it seems a play about children living in a ward for critically ill kids would be depressing. But if you attend the production of “The Barefoot Children in the City of Ward” you will find yourself laughing much more so than reaching for the tissues.
This is because the cast, composed of mostly children under the age of nine, understand the need for children to have fun regardless of the environment. “Because children need to dance, and spin, and jump” as the dialogue goes. The characters have created names for themselves and visit faraway lands, using their imagination and the environment. The audience shares the magical ride, full of adventure and, yes, some tragedy.
It is difficult to decide which cast member outshines because they are all good, regardless of the role. “Small Trolls” James Lowe, Bethany Bayer, and Glancy Piper will steal your heart in the few seconds they take the stage. Abbey Rhyne as “Genevieve” has a grasp on the complexities of character, and Miriam “Little” Todd at six years old puts all of the “Toddlers & Tiaras” kids to shame. Ally Barca as “Hopscotch” and Ellie “Grace” Teel are natural comedians. All of them are members of The Theatre Bug, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspire youngsters to create community and build confidence. Portions of proceeds from “The Barefoot Children in the City of Ward” benefit Gilda’s Club, an organization dedicated to assisting those affected by cancer. Arden Allmon is a Theatre Bug member and was collecting tickets and handing out brochures. “I just want to help people with cancer,” the elementary school student explains, “people who have a lot of trouble because they’re sick.” She understands her part in the volunteer aspect. “I help out so kids can go to school and have fun.”
There is a scene where two children, hunkered down by a soft drink machine, discuss their illness. One character reflects on how he tires of being viewed as “the kid with cancer” and his dream is to one day wear shoes, because it would mean “I have somewhere to go.” His friend agrees, saying she wishes she was in school, worried about boys and music and hairstyles “like a normal girl.” It is a poignant, well done scene and will have you thinking - and soon laughing. There is a scene with a group called “Forget-me-nots.” They represent the friends and family of children living on the ward. “We can’t go with you,” they tell the children who are off to an imaginary adventure, “we’ll wait for you.”
This is a production designed to make the audience think, and laugh, and cry, just like those who live on the critically ill children’s wards across America. The fact that the play is being done is wonderful. The fact the cast is composed of sincere, talented children is priceless.
(“The Barefoot Children in the City of Ward” runs to Feb. 10, 2013 at The Theatre Bug, 2618 Gallatin, Nashville TN. Shows are Thursday and Friday at 7:00pm, Saturdays 2:00pm & 7:00pm, and on Sundays 2:00pm. Tickets should be purchased in advance. For tickets go HERE)
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