New Trike artistic director jumps in with all-ages version of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’

New Trike artistic director jumps in with all-ages version of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’

Fran Sillau is new to Northwest Arkansas, and so is the version of “The Velveteen Rabbit” he’s directing for Trike Theatre.

“‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ has always been one of my favorite stories,” says Sillau, who comes to Trike as the new artistic director after 25 years working in children’s theater. “This particular adaptation of the story — adapted by acclaimed playwright James Still — is a staple in the field of theater for young audiences.

“It begins with a young adult named Steve looking back on his childhood, and we see Steve’s younger self go through the exciting and challenging stages of growing up.”

It’s a unique telling of the popular 1921 tale of a stuffed rabbit who longs to become real through the love of his little boy, Sillau says, because “it shows the perspective of an adult looking back on his childhood and a young actor showing us that perspective in real time. [And] it provides an opportunity for actors to play and embody various characters — characters like boats, trains, rabbits, rocking horses, and so many more things. In our play, when the adults are out of the room, the toys come to life and have all sorts of fun!”

Sillau’s cast is a mix of adult professionals and young people trained in Trike Theatre’s academy classes, he says.

“These actors — both youth and professional — come to rehearsal each day ready to work; some had their lines memorized on day one,” he marvels. “We are blessed at Trike to employ full-time teaching artists, individuals who teach acting and theater to young people, [and] the same individuals who are teaching the acting classes at Trike are performing in ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ with their students.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for students to get some experience in a professional and supportive setting. I was brought up in the same sort of environment, and it changed my life. It was one of the reasons I was excited to join the team at Trike,” says Sillau, who before joining Trike Theatre, was director of accessibility at The Rose Theater in Omaha, Neb., one of the largest children’s theaters in the United States. He also spent time working with children’s theaters in Lexington, Ky., and Kansas City, Mo.

“The actors [at Trike] are doing a great job of letting their own imaginations run wild, and they are creating some wonderfully imaginative moments on stage,” Sillau enthuses. “The play has something for everyone, comedic, dramatic, and heartstring touching moments. It really is a play for all ages.”

Also unique to the production, Sillau says, is the featured performance of a live string ensemble from the Arkansas Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, a reflection of the merger between the Arkansas Philharmonic and Trike, announced Sept. 30, to form a new organization called Ovations+.

“We are excited about this new collaboration and all of the new opportunities and artistic offerings we will create together,” Sillau says. “This will be the first of many!

“I hope that in the car ride home, I hope that the young and the young and heart talk about what does it mean to be ‘Real’? What does it mean to show love to our friends, families, and neighbors,” Sillau says. “At its core, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ reminds us that no matter how ‘busy’ life becomes, family, friends, kindness, and imagination are important at each and every stage.”



‘The Velveteen Rabbit’

WHEN — 6:30 p.m. Jan. 26; 2 & 6:30 p.m. Jan. 27; 2 p.m. Jan. 28

WHERE — Thaden School Performing Arts Center, 800 S.E. “C” St. in Bentonville

COST — $15 adults; younger than 18 free


Categories: Family Friendly