Digging In To The Story

Digging In To The Story

Serious play inspires serious discussion



Arts Live’s newest show, “The Hundred Dresses,” has an important message about bullying and inclusion — subjects that are particularly pertinent to the theater’s young artists and audiences. The play, adapted from the 1944 Newbery Honor-winning novel by Eleanor Estes, tells the story of a young Polish-American student who is bullied in her school for her “funny” accent and wearing threadbare clothing. In response, she tells her classmates she has 100 dresses at home. The bullying only increases as a result of her claims, and the student is eventually removed from the school as a result.

Arts Live teaching artist and director Jules Taylor says the play has a lot to teach its young audiences about how to treat others.

“The other students eventually discover that she was not lying about the hundred dresses, and they learn the age-old lesson about getting to know people, not ‘judging a book by its cover,’ not making fun of them and believing in them,” she explains.

The intimate group of eight actors is on the small size for a theater company known for its large casts and flashy musicals. Taylor says the Arts Live team strives to make sure the season choices are varied in order to offer as many different kinds of performance opportunities as possible for its young artists.

“We might do a fun musical like ‘Junie B.’ that’s going to be fun and splashy and complete entertainment, but we also want to challenge our young actors,” she explains. “We want to give them stories like this that go deep and let them do a lot of actors’ homework. I’m working with second-, third-, fourth-graders, and they’re getting to do script analysis and learning what it means to study a character. That’s an awesome thing to get to work with them on. It challenges them a lot more to give them opportunities with these acting roles with a lot of depth. We look [both] for fun entertainment and to challenge them a little bit. We really do look toward creating a season, as well as a curriculum with our classes, that’s going to be diverse and challenging.”

The small size also allows for intense discussions to break out, which, Taylor says, they frequently do given the material. The book may have been written over 70 years ago, but its themes are evergreen.

“From the beginning, we have had a lot of deep conversations,” says Taylor. “We’ve talked about these deep issues and have really done a lot of bonding among the cast. It’s always amazing to me, as an adult, to talk to kids, to hear their perspective. These kids are smart. They understand acceptance and diversity and how to accept more people into your life. They certainly understand bullying in a way my generation did not. I’m always impressed and hopeful by what they say, and it makes me feel better about what’s going on in the world.”



‘The Hundred Dresses’

WHEN — 7 p.m. June 27-28-29; 2 p.m. June 29-30

WHERE — Arts Live Theatre, 818 N. Sang Ave., Fayetteville

COST — $7-$9

INFO — 521-4932

Categories: Theater