By Gianna Holiday
Ensemble Stage Theatre, located in Banner Elk, is planning to put a fresh spin on an old classic tale with the premiere of a new play.
Aimed towards a younger audience and presently set to have its first showing on June 22, Ensemble will present the creative re-telling of The Tortoise and the Hare entitled, “The Tortoise vs. the Hare 2: This Time, It’s Personal” by Sean Abley.
The play not only tells the story of how the slow-and-steady Tortoise beat the overly-confident Hare but also focuses on their great-grandkids, Ro-Shell the tortoise and Jack Rabbit the bunny, who are talked into a rematch to settle old scores.
The play has been sponsored by the Banner Elk Kiwanis Club, a global organization of volunteers dedicated to improving the world, one child and one community at a time. The Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk is composed of ”service minded” individuals from throughout Avery County with other events including the Woolly Worm Festival.
According to Ensemble’s website, “Now, the race will be on live TV, and their friends have a lot of ideas about how Ro-Shell and Jack can beat one another, but only good sportsmanship can win the day in this lighthearted retelling of an old, classic tale.”
Derek Gagnier, who runs the acting program at Appalachian State University as an Associate Professor of Theatre, has been working closely with Ensemble Stage in order to put on this new production.
Gagnier has been working with Ensemble since 2009 when the theater first started up and has been involved with the children’s show for over 6 years.
“We have four actresses, two of which who worked with us last year and two of which who are making their professional debut and they play 14 different characters. They tell the story of the first race as well as the second one, which follows the re-match with great-great-grandkids of the original tortoise and the hare,” said Gagnier.
The actresses are all local performers with two having recently graduated from Appalachian State’s Performing Arts program with the other two currently attending and planning to make their professional debut in this upcoming performance.
“It’s interactive, it’s for all ages, and it’s really fun if I do say so myself. We’ve got really fun animal costumes and a cast with a great sense of humor. It is very cool how they switch up characters and their roles in the play,” said Gagnier.
Although this production is geared towards children, Gagnier went on to state that is typically the parents and grandparents who laugh just as hard, if not harder, than the young ones.
However, despite it being a lighthearted comedy with a family-fun theme, it also contains important lessons for young children.
“The play touches on issues such as bullying and sportsmanship, highlighting that it is better to lose fairly than to cheat; it even deals a little bit with prejudice, so we add in these life lessons to send a good message,” said Gagnier.
The mission and purpose of Ensemble Stage, located in the heart of Banner Elk, focuses on inspiring their community. They wish to provide the residents of The High Country, and its visitors, with a wide range of live theatrical presentations of the highest possible quality at an affordable price for everyone.
Ensemble also hopes to inspire, challenge and nurture the imagination and social skills of youths and adults through theatre-based educational programs.
“The Tortoise vs. the Hare 2: This Time, It’s Personal” lasts approximately 45 minutes and will premiere at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 22 with two other showings in July and August. All tickets for this show are $6.00 plus tax, payable by cash or check at the door.