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All the World’s a Stage

By Lynne Heffley



It’s not quite the same, but young theatre fans can check out the work of companies around the world in a new video series called "Globalstage" aimed at ages 7-14. So far, the series consists of Collodi’s "Pinocchio," a commedia dell’arte production performed by Stage One of Louisville Ky.; "Cyrano," an adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s beautiful classic, presented by the Blaw Vier theatre company of Antwerp, Belgium; and Frankenstein," Stage One’s version of Mary Shelley’s atmospheric horror tale.

The company’s fourth offering will be Thomas Hardy’s "Far From the Madding Crowd," presented by England’s Snap People’s Theatre.

Two other titles, scheduled for release by the end of the year, are yet to be announced.

The British Broadcasting Corp. has filmed each production; each features an introduction by Irish-born Elizabeth McNamer, a professor of literature and religion, and her 13-year-old sidekick, Preston Blakeley. The informative interchange between the two is theatrically awkward, but refreshingly unpatronizing, providing historical, ideological and cultural context for each play.

"I think that the BBC has really captured the experience of actors on a stage, and the vibrancy of the theatre," said Globalstage marketing director Abbi Kaplan. "They mix up the camera angles to make it almost seem that you’re there."

"We’re not saying it’s the same thrill of walking into a theater," noted founder Lizbeth Pratt. "But it’s not [a passive TV experience] either, because what’s happening is not all laid out for you. You see diversity; you see ideas and concepts. It forces the viewer to be involved because [as in a theater experience] your mind has to fill in the blanks."

Inspiration for the series was sparked by Pratt’s desire to find entertainment that wasn’t "dumbed down" for her young son, and because, after she and her son saw "a really good play," she was disappointed that no video of the performance existed.

Pratt, a stock options trader in her everyday life, now regularly travels nationally and internationally, looking for productions to add to her series’ eclectic mix.

Los Angeles Times, 7/9/98

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