Today, the YLD sent 50 students to see 'The Jungle Book,' currently playing at the Arden Theatre, an interactive children's theatre, in Philadelphia. Students were chosen on a need basis and on a merit basis by their teachers - the most needy students with the best classroom performed were chosen to come.
NOTE: While we took pictures today, the teachers have indicated that we are not permitted to distribute any pictures with any child's face. Thus, the only pictures we have are the ones below.
The YLD paid for the school bus, and Senator Gormley donated the tickets. Our Chair-Elect, Julie E Nugent, Esq., and Rick Andrien, Esq., a Trustee of the Atlantic County Bar Association, also attended the show (buying their own tickets).
For those who have never attended a show at the Arden Theatre, all of th children's shows are interactive, meaning the children participate in some way throughout the show. In addition, the characters in each play are played by only a handful of actors. In this case, 4 actors rotated the roles of Mowgli, Balu, Bagera, the Wolf Pack, King Louis (and his crazy monkeys), Ka, and Sheerkan.
The theatre is a 360 degree theatre, with a round stage in the center, and what can only be desrcibed as mini stages throughout the entire theatre. Actors hop, swing and jump between the main stage and the mini stages during the show, so that they are in close proximity to different groups at all times.
Before the show started, the actors came out to talk to the audience. They taught the students how to make "the sounds of the jungle," such as rain, wind, and thunder, and the calls of the wild, including the sounds of monkeys, tigers, and snakes. The children made these noises for the actors throughout the play, thereby supplying the sound track and setting the mood.
Six of the students from Sovereign Avenue were chosen at random by the actors to sit on pillows lining the main stage. This seemed to be the highlight of these students' experience at the Arden Theatre.
The show lasted for 2 hours total, with a 15 minute intermission. During intermission, Julie and Rick helped the chaperones accompany the children to the restrooms. This allowed them the opportunity to interact with the students directly and get a feel for how they liked the show. There was a general consensus among the students that this was their best day ever!! While all students expressed their gratitude and their excitement at being chosen to come see the play, there were a few students who had some quotable lines. WARNING: the following quotes may make you cry, so grab the tissues!
One young girl said that she felt like a princess because she was asked to sit on the stage and no one had ever picked her for something special. One young boy said that he wished he could live at the Arden Theatre forever because it was way better than going home. Another boy asked why he was chosen and whether it was because someone thought he was special like the other kids who get to go on trips with their parents. And, one final boy said that he had never left Atlantic City before and had never gotten to ride on a school bus before and that, even if he hadn't been allowed to see the show, he was just happy that he got to ride a bus all the way to Philadelphia. Here come the waterworks!
After the show ended, the students had the unique opportunity to talk with the actors and ask them questions. Of course, every student raised their hand, but none of them had a question - each one of them just wanted to say thank you to the actors and to tell the actors how much they loved "everything." (Are you crying yet??) Only one student had an question, which was "Why are tigers afraid of fire?" (Good question!)
Once the Q&A with the actors was over, the Arden Theatre let us use their private dining area and the students got to each lunches packed by their teachers. The students eventually - more like reluctantly - got back in the bus for the ride home.
Calling this event a success would be an understatement! The YLD would like to publicly thank Senator Gormley for his beyond generous donation of the theatre tickets, as well as all those who helped make the Jungle Book trip a success, including the administration and elementary school teachers at Sovereing Avenue.
The YLD hopes to continue to be able to provide similar experiences for other underprivileged and disadvantaged children in Atlantic County in the future. In order to do so, we rely on donations from ACBA and YLD members. If you haven't made a donation yet, we would encourage you to do so! Any amount helps!