Through the generosity of a grant from Dollar General, the Augusta University Literacy Center will present its annual series of children’s play to audiences for free this year. The 2016-17 series kicks off Sept. 14 at the Maxwell Performing Arts Theater with a modern twist on the classic fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare.”
In the play, a seemingly slow tortoise and speedy hare race to the finish line in a lively tale with twists, turns, laugh-out-loud jokes and a surprise ending. The play stresses character lessons about sportsmanship and humility.
The engaging stories in this and other performances presented by the Literacy Center are another way to promote a love of literature and reading in children. For the second year, the center has partnered with Porkchop Productions to bring a series of plays to life for children from across the CSRA, with the purpose of improving literacy.
“Besides being fun for children, attending literacy plays helps children develop decoding skills, fluency, vocabulary, syntactic knowledge, discourse knowledge and metacognitive thinking. In short, the mental requirements for understanding dramatic productions are very similar to those used for reading comprehension,” said Dr. Paulette Harris, founder and director of the Augusta University Literacy Center.
The center will offer five productions this year, starting with “Tortoise,” and continuing with classics like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” on March 8 and “Goldilocks” on May 10. But two newer stories join the age-old fables: “Christmas, the Measles, and Me” on Dec. 7 and “Sticks and Stones” on Jan. 18.
“But you’ve never seen any of these shows before,” said Porkchop Productions’ founder Stacey Maxwell. “All of our shows are original content. We take the short fables and lengthen them, and the darker fairy tales and lighten them. We teach a lesson that appeals to both children and adults with lots of pop culture references and light-hearted jokes.”
Maxwell said the shows add a frenetic, kinetic energy to stories that children may only see in the page. The drama engages them, helps them to better visualize words in action – a skill they can take back to their reading. In fact, teaching a lesson while entertaining was part of what inspired Maxwell to found the children’s theater production company 22 years ago. And to do that, she rewrites the plays as time passes, rotating them in and out every five years to keep the content fresh.
“It’s 2016,” she said, with a chuckle. “The Spice Girls just aren’t relevant anymore.”
Keeping things current helps kids connect with the stories, which in turn helps them connect with reading. And that, Harris said, is the whole point of offering the play series.
“The brain learns best when it is involved in exploring, thinking and analyzing. Seeing plays on stage facilitates the brain to retain information as it provides a stimulating environment for young learners,” Harris said.
Reservations for the Augusta Literacy Center’s play series are available by contacting the center. Seating is limited. For more information and to reserve seating, call the Literacy Center at 706-737-1625.
- “The Tortoise & The Hare” – Sept. 14, 10 a.m.
- “Christmas, the Measles, and Me” – Dec. 7, 10 am.
- “Sticks and Stones” – Jan. 18, 10 a.m.
- “The Emperor’s New Clothes” – March 8, 10 a.m.
- “Goldilocks” – May 10, 10 a.m.
The Augusta University Literacy Center is located at 1401 Magnolia Dr., Augusta. Call 706-737-1625, or visit augusta.edu/colleges/education/lcenter.