CAPE ELIZABETH – A group of theater students from Cape Elizabeth High School is helping picture books jump off the page for young patrons at the Thomas Memorial Library.
This week, several theater students teamed up with a dozen children ages 6 to 9 to create a play around “Stone Soup,” a picture book by Marcia Brown, as part of the library’s new Picture Book Theater Workshop program.
For an hour every day, working from a script written by high school junior Sasha Kohan, the children and the theater students will work on turning the book into a play, by developing and creating costumes, blocking the play and finally performing on Aug. 6 at 3:30 p.m. in the library’s community room.
Kohan and children’s librarian Rachel Davis envisioned the program earlier this summer as a new library program specifically aimed at the elementary school age group. The first Picture Book Theater Workshop was held July 19-23, when Kohan and some of her fellow theater students, including Tom Campbell, Piper Otterbein, Luke Sisselman and Chelsey Whynot, lead a group of 12 girls through a week of theater, ending with a performance of Margaret Read MacDonald’s “Mabela the Clever Mouse” on the final day of the week’s activities.
“They did an awesome job,” Kohan said.
Kohan said her fellow theater students will help her again lead the theater workshop this week.
Having it run by students for students, Davis said, is the whole goal behind the workshop.
“I think it is great for the kids to have the high school students serve as role models, instead of just working with older adults,” Davis said.
This is the first summer the library has offered the weeklong workshop. Davis said the idea stemmed from her long relationship with Kohan, who has been volunteering at the library since she was in third grade.
“I remember I went into the library to get a book about dragons. Rachel was so nice helping me pick it out that I told my mom I wanted to help at the library,” Kohan said. “I started coming to storytime and I never stopped.”
Davis said she remembered Kohan had come to the library that day and asked for a “biography of a dragon.”
Combining Kohan’s love of theater, which began at the high school, and her love for books and reading seemed to be the perfect opportunity for a program for older elementary school children, Davis said.
“I am always looking for programs for children, especially for older children,” she said. “We tend to have no trouble getting preschool and kindergarten students in our programs, but it is harder to get the older children here. I wanted to have something that would be unique, fun and that would attract school-aged children.”
Kohan chose “Stone Soup,” she said, from a handful of books that Davis had picked out for possible consideration. The book, a lesson in cooperation, tells the story of a group of passing soldiers tricking a town of greedy residents into sharing a feast with them.
“I was looking for something theatrical. There are unlimited characters in the book, so everyone can have a part. I think everyone knows the story, or they will when they get to first grade,” Kohan said. “I thought it would be a fun way to introduce the kids to a theater performance.”
For some of the kids, it will be their second time at a Picture Book Theater Workshop. For others it will be their first experience in such a program.
Whether returning or not, Kohan knows many of the children from her summer job at the summer recreational club at the Cape Elizabeth Community Center.
“I like working with the kids. I enjoy being the teacher,” she said. “I learn a lot about working with people. It is a lot of fun. I think I get just as much out of it as the kids do.”
Kohan said she hopes to continuing working with children after she graduates high school in two years.
“I definitely want to pursue working with kids and teaching,” she said. ‘I don’t think I’ll pursue theater, but it’s fun to do along the way.”
Ella Bromage laughs during a reading of the play “Stone Soup” at the Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth on Monday. Bromage is part of a group of young readers that will perform the play on Friday, after a week of instruction from Cape high school students Sasha Kohan and Chelsey Whynot. (Photo by Rich Obrey)Cape Elizabeth High School students Sasha Kohan, left, and Chelsey Whynot discuss casting their play, Stone Soup, at the Thomas Memorial Library on Monday. The two Capers are helping a group of young readers perform the play. (Photos by Rich Obrey)