The Houston-based Alley Theatre Company’s production of Oskar and the Last Straw entertained PISD students on Friday, March 13, 2020. El Paseo Arts Foundation sponsored the live theatre performances for 302 second, third and fourth grade students at Derry Elementary School and for 261 third, fourth and fifth grade students at Garriga Elementary School. This Oskar touring production educates K-5 students about the important life skills they need to bounce back from crisis and cope with disasters big and small – a fitting topic for young students dealing with the stress of the Corona virus crisis. The talented and very high energy professional performers in the touring company interacted with the students as they are coming into the performance venue and students, asked them questions about acting and theatre, some students remarking that they would like to be an actor someday, too.
Julie Boughter and Brenda Bailey coordinated the performances for El Paseo Arts, and Derry school counselor Cristol Wolcot and Garriga school secretary Mary Lou Salinas coordinated the programs for the school district.
Promoting and supporting arts education for local students in order to help develop the artists and patrons of the arts for the future is a major initiative for El Paseo Arts Foundation. The Foundation’s arts initiatives include sponsoring a professional theatre, music, dance or visual arts program for PISD each year, focusing on a different age group each year. In addition the Foundations partners with the PI Library to sponsor a summer art camp each year, provides scholarships for local students to attend summer art classes at Art Space, and provides scholarships to graduating seniors who plan to continue advanced study in the arts. The Foundation has also planned to initiate a summer theatre camp for local students this year.
The PISD student audiences enjoyed the show as evidenced by their laughter and rapt attention. Humor is one of the primary tools that children’s theatre employs and the impact of that humor was the major element of the play that the students commented on. Tristan Villarreal, 4th grade, said he “like how funny it was.” Layla Mata, 4th grade said, “I like it because if expressed how you feel when you’re stressed out in a funny way so kids can understand it.” And Dana Munoz, 4th grade explained that she liked “where the kinds helped Oskar figure out ways to get everything out of his backpack and help him.” It was a great day for live theater.