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Schools want to expose more students to theater

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Hundreds of Clayton County elementary school students smiled and leaned forward in their seats at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center on Wednesday morning as they got to see the tale of "Stone Soup" come to life before their eyes.

The short musical, which was performed by actors from the Richmond, Va.-based Theatre IV performance group, is the tale of Peter the Sailor, his parrot, Admiral, and the residents of a small village. Peter, played by Andrew Ballard, tricks the residents of the village into giving him food and spices for a soup, if he provides imaginary "stones" for the soup.

At the end of the musical, the villagers find out about Peter's duplicity and offer him a parting gift as he prepares to leave the area -- stones. Lots of stones. Stones of all sizes, and several in a wheel barrow.

"The theme is 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,'" said D.J. Bucciarelli, who plays Christopher, one of the villagers.

The children enthusiastically jumped out of their seats when the actors revealed that the students could participate in a game of "Win, Lose or Draw," with the characters. The enthusiasm of the students is exactly what officials from the school system want to see. They hope to see more of it in the future, as well.

"The superintendent [John Thompson] wants to have these shows more available to all of the students in Clayton County," said Anita Lloyd, the coordinator for the Performing Arts Center. "It cost us about $35,000 to bring in this show for two performances, so Clayton County is working to find ways to fund more of these performances ... We'd like to be able to provide free tickets for all of the children."

That was music to the ears of the performers from Theatre IV. The actors are traveling across the eastern portion of the country for two months, performing "Stone Soup" for elementary-school-age children, before spending a month performing "A Christmas Carol."

While each of the plays has a theme and a moral for students, the actors are also trying to teach the youths an appreciation for the craft of acting.

"We want to get kids enthusiastic about the theater," said Ballard, whose sister, Liz, is also a cast member in "Stone Soup."