Children Perform for Children in "Wackadoo Zoo "

By Cathy Koester

Ahhhh ... laughter. Few things in life are as precious. It feels good; it sounds good; it even tastes good. And it's the main ingredient in the Ursuline School of Music & Drama's production of "Wackadoo Zoo."

"Wackadoo Zoo" is a musical play written by Jill Gallina for children to be performed by children. The young dramatists range from the kindergarten age through second grade. Show times are January 27 at 7:30 p.m. and January 28 at 3 p.m. Both productions will be held in the Ursuline Auditorium located at 3105 Lexington Road in Louisville.

Youngsters will no doubt enjoy the setting of "Wackadoo Zoo." The animals that populate this unusual zoo haven't quite mastered their appropriate languages. The monkeys bray like a donkey, fierce lions crow like a rooster, the cows meow and the goats bark. These lovable little misfits are threatened by unsympathetic university professors who are determined to make them conform to their proper roles.

Like a gentle child's version of George Orwell's 1984, "Wackadoo Zoo" teaches young audiences the value of individuality while installing a slight disdain for authoritative intolerance. Such didactic undertones certainly do not weigh down the hour-long play a bit. For children, it will be an hour of hilarity. They do recognize the theme, however, as seven-year-old Kelly Thompson demonstrated. "The message is 'different means special,"' the young actress aptly informed.

The cast is comprised of 22 members. To watch them in rehearsals is almost as delightful as watching them on performance night. Their little faces light up with laughter as they assume their stage position. Each holds a bright yellow script with big black lettering, waiting his or her cue. A few giggles escape them as they act out their animal roles.

Jessica Bolduc, who plays one of the professors, is a first grader. This is the second year she has been with the Ursuline School of Music & Drama. "I like to act because it makes you feel good when you make other children laugh," she explained. "It feels really good when you remember all of your lines. I want to keep acting all through school."

Realizing that one of their fellow performers was being interviewed, the others gathered around, eager to add their own bit of information. "My favorite part is when we all sing together," announced Kelly Burdick, a youngster who plays a monkey. "I like it because the animals make funny sounds," exclaimed Elizabeth Charron, one of the lions.

Indeed, stage is no place for bashfulness and small miracles seem to abound as the shy, withdrawn children emerge with a new-found confidence. According to Martha Charron, office manager, the philosophy of the school encourages self-resourcefulness and creativity in all children, regardless of their ability on stage. "It's wonderful to see the shy child gain a whole new self resourcefulness and take it back into the classroom," She said.

Kathy Thompson, coordinator for the beginner drama group, echoed Chairon's viewpoint. "These drama classes are wonderful for the self-image. Shy children lose their inhibitions by the examples of the more outgoing children. We usually don't have to coax them; they spontaneously join in the fun," she said.

Tickets for "Wackadoo Zoo" are $4 for adults and $2 for senior citizens and children under 12. They can be purchased at the door. For more information, call (502) 897-1811.