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"The Emperor's Tales" A True Community Theater Effort

Director Diana vonRoeschlaub preparing one of last year's performers for "Alice in Wonderland," the production that launched Play Troupe's 2013 revival. This year, the Children's Show presents "The Emperor's Tales" May 16-18 at St. Stephen's Church.
Director Diana vonRoeschlaub preparing one of last year's performers for "Alice in Wonderland," the production that launched Play Troupe's 2013 revival. This year, the Children's Show presents "The Emperor's Tales" May 16-18 at St. Stephen's Church.

Next weekend, the Port Washington Play Troupe Children’s Show will present “The Emperor’s Tales,” two classic stories by Hans Christian Andersen, at St. Stephen's Church. They’ll also offer a portrait of a true community endeavor.

Returning director Diana vonRoeschlaub, Play Troupe’s VP and a force behind the program’s revival in 2013, has been involved with the Children’s Show since she herself was a young girl. As a lifelong Port resident and today, a mother, she missed seeing entire families come together to make theater magic.

“The wonder of the Children’s Show was always that it was inter-generational,” she notes. “To watch the encouragement and mentorship that develops, and to see everyone enjoy creating make-believe for an audience, it’s fantastically fun. I can’t figure out who gets a bigger kick out of it, the grown-ups or the kids.”

Community theater, of course, means community work. Everyone behind the Children's Show is a volunteer. Thanks to a grant from the Peter & Jeri Dejana Family Foundation, Play Troupe has been able to keep the participation fee for the Children’s Show affordable (with scholarships available for those in need). But there’s no big budget for purchases. Sets need to be hand-painted. Props and costume pieces need to be tracked down. And in an era when most parents work long hours in far-off NYC, it’s harder than it used to be to find the extra volunteer hands needed to make the show happen.

That hasn’t discouraged vonRoeschlaub. In fact, it’s made her even more grateful for her team, and the parents and company members who are now going the extra mile in these final days of preparation to make the show a success. Knowing how busy the average Port parent is, and how many commitments their children have, she's thankful for the simple investment they're making of their time, interest, energy, and collaboration.

Because at the end of the day, what matters isn’t necessarily how the set looks. It’s the experience of putting all the pieces together—as a communal effort, in which everyone matters—that forms lifelong memories. The journey begins with reading a script around a table, with children and teenagers excited to create something with the adults they love most, and culminates in a production that everyone worked together to get on its feet. That's the heart and promise of the Children's Show, no matter what story gets told onstage.

“There are kids for whom these experiences mean everything,” vonRoeschlaub emphasizes. “It ain’t easy. But I know the good we’re doing.”

“The Emperor’s Tales,” featuring over 45 Port Washington children, teens and adults, will be performed at 7:00pm on Fri., May 16 and Sat., May 17, and at 2:00pm on Sun. May 18, in the Parish Hall at St. Stephen’s Church (9 Carlton Ave.). Adult tickets are $10, children under 12 pay $5. For tickets and more information, visit www.portwashingtonplaytroupe.com.



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