Sell-out crowds enjoy monthly ‘Family Theater’

Find out why families pack in Portland Metro Arts on the first Saturday of the month. Hint: Really fun shows …

Portland Metro Arts fills, as the “Once Upon a Time Family Theatre” is about to present its monthly performance.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Since being reintroduced early last year, the “Once Upon a Time Family Theatre” monthly productions at nonprofit Portland Metro Arts (PMA) in Montavilla have become a hit with families.

On the first Saturday of each month, PMA’s adult “house actors” set the stage, find costumes, and put on a show based on a traditional fairytale. While not elaborately produced, the shows are delightful and engaging productions, designed to keep the attention of kids – and are also fun for adults.

PMA Theater Director Ritah Parrish Executive Director Nancy Yeamans pause for a photo before the play begins.

The idea of presenting this kind of show isn’t new, remarked Executive Director Nancy Yeamans. “I first started doing these 40 years ago, in Eugene. It ran for about five years and was quite successful.

“Then, last year, when we moved into our new building in outer East Portland,” Yeamans told East Portland News, “I thought this could get started again. We do have a very nice theater here at PMA.”

PMA Theater Director Ritah Parrish “has what it takes”, Yeamans commended, “to put this together, and make it a rousing success.”

It’s not a full-scripted show, Parrish said. “We sketch out the fairytale; our actors take parts, and perform it in an improvisational style. Our actors interact with audience members, as we present a well-known story – with  new twists and ideas.”

In Little Red Riding Hoodie, Jordi Barnes plays Antie Nana, and Sonia Montalbano portrays Grandma.

Little Red Riding Hoodie (played by Miriam Kilian) consults the Noble Woodsman (Elijah Kilian).

For example, in their January production of “Little Red Riding Hoodie” – yes Red’s wearing a hoodie – the Big Bad Wolf in their story happened to be vegan.

Now playing to full houses
In the past, the show didn’t run during the summer months when school is out. “This year, we went to the summer and had lovely wonderful crowds throughout the summer – so we’ll just keep doing that,” Yeamans said.

How “big and bad” can this Wolf (played by Ben Plont) be? He says he enjoys writing and reading his Jack Kérouac-inspired poetry – and, he swears he’s vegan!

On February 1, “Once Upon a Time Family Theatre” presents their version of Puss ‘n’ Boots.

It was surprising to see that every seat in the theater was filled during January’s show. Tickets to the shows are inexpensive; only $2 for adults and a buck for kids. But here’s a tip: Get your tickets in advance online [CLICK HERE] – and arrive by 11:30 a.m. to be assured good seating! Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

When you go, check out all that Portland Metro Arts Center and School offers, in arts classes in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts.

Portland Metro Arts is located at 9003 SE Stark Street. Call (503) 408-0604 for more information.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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