Lessons From *Lily*
Wildwood Park for the Arts is currently touring my play *Lily and the Apple Seed.* They've been all over the state encouraging k-5th graders to make healthy choices. I watched the production for the first time two weeks ago at Jefferson Elementary here in Little Rock. This was my first full-length play to write by myself, and I feel so fortunate to have seen it in production. My major lesson is not an earth-shattering one for theatre artists. In fact, its pretty basic--"Show, don't tell." I primarily used narration to tell the story of this young girl faced with a food dilemma instead of using action scenes. There were several reasons for this: 1) I based the play on a narrative story by my sister-in-law, Emily Sutterfield; 2) I was limited to three actors, and I wasn't sure how to do action scenes involving different more than three characters and only three actors; and 3) I was commissioned to write a play encouraging the seed to plate idea. I didn't know how to do this without being didactic; therefore, I tried to used Brechtian techniques to embrace the didactism rather than fight it. This, too, led me to narration. As I revise, I will attempt to lose much of the narration as well as the strong didactic message. Though I'm proud of what we created, I think the next version will be significantly different, and I hope those changes are for the better. I am so thankful for everyone who worked on this project--especially director Stacy Pendergraft and set designer Cheri Devol. They made me look good!
*Lily & the Apple Seed* Reading
On October 1, the *Lily* cast and director Stacy Pendergraft gave me the luxury of a full reading of the play. This reading is very early in the writing process, and I really appreciated their willingness to share their time and talents. We were also so lucky to have Judy Goss and Cheri Devol and her family in attendance. Judy provided great playwrighting insight, and Cheri gave us wonderful technical ideas. Right now, I am letting their feedback percolate in my mind. I intend to revise again after my Horace Mann project goes up on Nov 2nd. Until then....I'll keep you updated on Horace Mann and, at some point, I'm going to write up a post on the devising project I directed at Hendrix in September. Busy, busy in the best of ways!
The *Lily & the Apple Seed* cast and I were thrilled to be a part of Little Rock's Healthy Eating and Active Living Summit organized by Michael Drake and held at Philander Smith College. We presented a ten minute cutting of this in-progress play exploring healthy choices and seed to plate ideas right before Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius' keynote address. We were very excited to have such a prime spot, and it was great exposure for Wildwood's upcoming spring educational tour of the play.
Inspired by Emily Sutterfield's story, *Lily and the Apple Seed,* helps elementary school educators encourage healthy eating and active living. Lily settles in every day after school to watch her "favorite pal" Huck and to eat all the salty and sweet Snackum's products he sells on TV. Lily's Grandma Francis grows her own food. When Lily is sent to Grandma's for the summer, she learns to love fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and meats. Back home, Lily must make a decision--will she continue to make healthy choices as exemplified by Grandma or will she return to Huck's tempting treats? Designed for grades kindergarten through 5th, the play addresses Nutrition and Personal Health and Safety standards on the Health and Wellness strand of the Arkansas K-8 PE and Health Curriculum Frameworks.
Wildwood Park for the Arts will tour the play to elementary schools in February and March of 2011.
Thanks to director Stacy Pendergraft and actors Emily Wold, Marquis Bullock, and Ameria Jones for making this preview a success! Looking forward to the full reading at UALR Sunday night!
About the Author: April Gentry-Sutterfield is a director, deviser, educator, and mom who uses theatre as a tool for social justice, education, and community engagement.