‘Theatereach’ takes plays to students

Tom Titus

Theatrical productions offered by the Laguna Playhouse are not

confined to the handsome building at 606 Laguna Canyon Road.

The playhouse also sponsors a touring show -- Orange County’s only


curriculum-based theater tour -- which visits over 50 schools during

the latter part of each year. It’s called Theatereach, and it begins

its 2002 season today.

From now through Dec. 13, Theatereach will offer performances of


“Island of the Blue Dolphins,” a children’s play based on the

Newberry Medal-winning book by Scott O’Dell. The play will be

presented to fourth- and fifth-graders at a number of Orange County

schools, and even a few outside the county (Murietta, Temecula and

Moreno Valley).

The adaptation of “Blue Dolphins” has been written, and is being

directed, by Donna Inglima, education director of the Laguna

Playhouse, whose production of “Anastasia Krupnik” just wrapped up


its two-weekend engagement at the playhouse. The book itself has been

named among the 10 best American children’s books of the last 200

years by the Children’s Literature Assn.

In the spring, the playhouse’s Theatereach program will offer more

than 200 performances of other plays based on children’s books --

“Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White, which is on the third-grade

curriculum, and “By the Great Horn Spoon” by Sid Fleischman, on the

fourth-grade curriculum.


In addition to performances, Theatereach offers student and

teacher workshops. Teachers are given study guides containing sample

lesson plans and activities for students before the performances.

“The loss of funding for drama and music programs in the

elementary grades of California public schools has left a cultural

gap and created an arts-poor curriculum, especially in low-income,

economically disadvantaged areas,” Inglima says.

“Theatereach has made a dynamic and consistent contribution to

schools, especially those in the Anaheim, Magnolia, Savanna, Santa

Ana and Westminster school districts,” she noted. “Live theater helps

young people develop creativity and visualization skills and

strengthens language -- especially for students from homes where

English is not spoken.”

Since its inception in 1999, the Laguna Playhouse Theatereach

program has consistently received praise from area educators.

“How can educators inspire students to want to read?” asks Randall

Coleman, coordinator of visual and performing arts for the Santa Ana

Unified School District. “The Laguna Playhouse Theatereach program

has done this with their outstanding plays.

“I have seen all three, and they are exciting to watch,

educational and professionally done,” Coleman adds. “I highly

recommend this educational outreach program. Administrators, teachers

and students will not be disappointed.”

“This is the type of performing art activity that the state

Department of Education likes for schools to incorporate into their

curriculum,” says Randy Peck, principal of Cordillera Elementary

School in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. “This is by

far the best program we have ever had at this school.”

Each Theatereach performance costs the Laguna Playhouse $1,200 to

produce, but thanks to many grants from area foundations,

corporations and individual donors, no school is ever asked to pay

more than half of that cost.

In the next few weeks, Theatereach will visit schools in Aliso

Viejo, Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach,

Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Orange, Santa

Ana, Temecula, Tustin, Westminster, Yorba Linda and, of course,

Laguna Beach.

More information on the Theatereach program may be obtained by

contacting the playhouse at (949) 497-2787.

* TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Coastline Pilot.