BERLIN – Students at Stephen Decatur High School will celebrate four decades of enchanting local children from the stage with this year’s rendition of Fantastic Mr. Fox.
On Dec. 1, students will kick off the 40th Annual Stephen Decatur High School Children’s Theatre with Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. In the coming days, the show is expected to draw more than 9,000 elementary school children from all over the Eastern Shore to Decatur’s auditorium. As always, this year’s Children’s Theatre production was designed with them in mind.
“The set is gorgeous, the songs are lively, the action is silly,” said drama teacher Brandon Cater.
Cater, who took over the drama department last year after the retirement of Decatur’s renowned Gwen Lehman, said a Washington D.C.-area show inspired him to do something a bit different with this year’s performance. So instead of the usual adaption of a well-known fairy tale, Cater opted to have his students perform the Dahl story while incorporating the use of large scale puppets. To further differentiate the production, he engaged the help of fellow Decatur graduate Brendan McGeehan do develop original music for the play.
“What I wanted to do was try something different,” Cater said. “I wanted to expose my students, and the students coming, to the world outside of what we know to be Children’s Theatre.”
He said his student actors were eager to try something new, particularly after they experimented with puppets earlier in the school year.
“We made puppets out of butcher paper and they had to practice things like making it breathe and show weight,” Cater said. “They really enjoyed the project.”
Under his guidance, 35 students — sophomores, juniors and seniors — have spent the past several weeks building a set and learning the parts of Fantastic Mr. Fox, the story of a fox and his feud with three farmers.
“The set looks like you’re in a barn and we’re treating everything like a hoe down,” Cater said.
With dirt and feathers — and possibly even some confetti — flying throughout the performance, he expects the play to delight young audience members.
“I think they’ll like it because it feels like it was brought out of the mind of a child,” Cater said.
Because last year’s Children’s Theatre production was so well received, additional weekend performances have been added to the schedule. While the play will be performed at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. during the week for school groups, there are 7 p.m. performances open to the public scheduled for Dec. 2-3 and 9-10. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.