The late Ken Bradbury’s script used for art program’s first theater production
by Maryjane Bradbury
Ken Bradbury’s tribute to Shel Silverstein, “SHELEBRATE!,” will return to Jacksonville with six performances in July.
Bradbury wrote the show to honor the writer/poet/illustrator Silverstein, whom he greatly admired. Bradbury’s Traveling Theatre Troupe performed “SHELEBRATE!” in 2017 under his direction, prior to his November 2018 death.
Christine Smith, Bradbury’s longtime friend and colleague, will direct the show present-day in four Jacksonville locations. Smith has been a Silverstein fan since her youth: “I grew up reading Shel Silverstein, and enjoyed so many of his poems.”
Smith continued, “I really wanted to do a children’s summer theater through Esprit de Corps to help get the word out to the community. The Esprit de Corps Academy is providing lots of musical opportunities to children of all ages here in the Jacksonville community.”
Tim Smith, president of The Esprit de Corps Academy, shared, “I am really excited that we can offer a quality theatrical and musical production so early on in the life of Espirt de Corps. I am grateful for Christine Smith stepping up with the vision and willingness to take on the production.”
The one-act, 40-minute show features 11 fourth- through eighth-grade students: Benen Dichsen, Louis Dichsen, Rigby Dichsen, Diamond Griffin, Aubrey Lowery, Brailynn Lowery, Greta Peterson, Sarah Pine, Brody Stowers, Cooper Stowers and Khloe Wingler. According to Smith, “The cast has worked diligently this summer and have enjoyed rehearsals — their favorite poem is ‘Yuck,’ which is about a kid that stepped in yuck.”
Most of the cast did not know one another prior to rehearsals, and this is the first acting role for many of them. Benen Dichsen shared, “What I really enjoy about this is, if anyone makes a mistake or forgets their lines, everyone is super supportive and always here to help.”
Wingler learned after receiving her script that Bradbury had been her stepmother’s teacher when her stepmother attended Triopia High School, and so her stepmom shared her own theater experiences, leading Wingler to state about it all, “This is a bonding thing, I get to bond more with my stepmom.”
Still, Cooper Stowers is no stranger to the stage, having performed in several productions in the community. “It’s great to meet more people who like to do theater and it’s great fun to do these poems that many people grew up on,” Stowers said.
All are welcome to attend “SHELEBRATE!” at Faith Lutheran Church, 185 West Walnut St. in Jacksonville, on Friday, July 21 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, July 22 at 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday, July 23 at 2 p.m.
Performances will also be held at the Jacksonville Public Library, 201 West College Ave., on Thursday, July 20 at 2 p.m. and at The Pointe at Jacksonville, 20 Jacksonville Pl., on Friday, July 21 at 2 p.m.
There is no cost to attend, but free will donations will be gratefully accepted. For more information, call 217-652-8528.