Bright Star Theatre at the Forest Library

Monique Scott of the Bright Star Touring Theatre performs as part of a program of “African Folk Tales”  Photo courtesy of David Ostergaard

Emma Coffey ~ Staff Writer

    The Forest Library will host the Bright Star Theatre company to perform, “African Folktales” on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

     Youth Services Associate Mary Pavalonis said that the Bright Star Theatre has many plays honoring Black History Month including, “Heroes of the Underground Railroad,” “Jackie Robinson,” “Rosa Parks and Friends,” and more. She said, “We hope that this event will be educational, entertaining, and fun for the whole family while celebrating African heritage.”

     Pavalonis said that the Bright Star Theatre performs educational plays about history, but they also perform plays based on fictional works. According to her, the theatre company has performed “The Wizard of Oz” during the library’s Summer Reading Program. Pavalonis said they will be back at the Moneta and Forest locations in July 2020 to perform “Beauty and the Beast” for the Bedford Public Library System Summer Reading Program.

     Library Director Jenny Novalis said, “In celebration of Black History month, the BPLS library, the Friends of the Forest Library, and the Friends of the Bedford Library are proud to present this special program to our communities. Folk tales represent an important oral history tradition from all cultures all over the world. This event highlights the African folktales that our audience may not be as familiar with.”

     According to Novalis, the theatre company has presented for their summer reading program before and also presented the “Black History Heroes, Soldiers and Spies” program at the Bedford Library last year for Black History Month and it was well received in the community. Novalis said, “This is a theater production, so the audience should expect to hear energetically told stories from many African cultures including Pourquoi tales and Anansi, as well as music.”

     Novalis said that people should come to this event to gain an appreciation of several African cultures’ folk tales and to experience the oral storytelling tradition. She said, “This is first and foremost an educational event. Bright Star Theatre will present a variety of lessons on African culture, geography, and history in addition to supporting several common core standards of reading for grades K through 5. Plus it is fun, and hopefully gets kids and their parents interested in learning more about the traditions of the people in the world around them.”

     Janelle Wienke, a booking agent for the Bright Star Theatre, said, “When we launched Bright Star Touring Theatre, we committed ourselves to being among America’s most affordable touring theatres. We have created programs that allow us to bring out theatre to schools and communities that are often underserved by the arts and bring the magic of theatre to young people who may not always have the chance to see it.”

     Wienke said that Bright Star is contracted by global sponsors to come to showcase their talents. According to her, they perform at schools, libraries, and museums from Seattle, Washington, to Moscow, Russia. Wienke said that they produce tours for every season and that they do over 2,000 shows each year. She said, “Each season is comprised of literary curriculum- and character-education based classics and originals that are as entertaining as they are educational.”

     Wienke said that each production features two actors performing as multiple characters and the shows are interactive with the audience. According to her, each show is 45 minutes long and includes a short Q&A at the end of each one. Wienke said that “African Folktales” is a family friendly show for young audiences to learn more about African literature and black history. She said, “This high energy show will explore the amazing continent of Africa through its folk tales. The audience will have a fun time and learn a few new things along the way.”

     Wienke also said, “Libraries provide a very healthy environment for learning but they also play an important role in community building. They are mainstays in neighborhoods where new in-person relationships can be made. They are accessible, welcoming, and friendly.” 

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