The Little Princess Playhouse at Shippensburg University brought children performances of “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” in November.
The double feature is the latest installment of the playhouse’s already successful productions geared toward exposing young children to performing arts.
“Our goal is to reach 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds, and to let them see what live theater is all about,” said Paul Leitner, playhouse artistic director and professor of music and theater arts.
According to the Americans for the Arts, exposing children to performing arts stimulates and develops the imagination and critical thinking, and refines cognitive and creative skills. Partaking in live arts strengthens children’s problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, and adds to overall academic achievement.
The Little Princess Playhouse provides young people in the community an inexpensive and accessible option to view live theater.
“The nearest place you’re going to find a children’s theater is Harrisburg,” Leitner said.
The playhouse’s performances are held in SU’s Stewart Hall, and tickets cost just $4.
This semester, the playhouse presented “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” on Nov. 16 and Nov. 23 at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. In all, Leitner said more than 400 children got to see the shows.
“There hasn’t been a show that we’ve done that hasn’t sold out,” Leitner said.
The playhouse is in its fifth year of existence this semester, and has put on more than 20 shows to date.
“Every year the carpet is packed,” said Andrew McGinnis, a four-year veteran of the playhouse.
The shows put on by the playhouse are the final project for the students in SU’s “Creating Children’s Theatre” class. Many of the students in the shows are education majors who joined the class just to bring live art and smiles to children in the community.
The class is permission by instructor, and requires an interview with Leitner and Director Gretchen Leitner for entry. According to Leitner, 21 students have already been selected and enrolled for next semester’s shows.
The playhouse plans to put on “Beauty and the Beast” next semester, and the Leitners are still searching for the second show. “Beauty and the Beast” is not new to the playhouse. The class performed it in 2011 and received a number of positive reviews.
On Nov. 16 and Nov. 23, the students decorated Stewart Hall at 8 a.m. in preparation for the 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. shows. After a semester full of hard work, they finally got to see the excitement live art brings to the children, and interact with them between and after the shows.
Then, after two weekends of performances, the class is over.
“They work really hard on Wednesday nights all semester, then reap the rewards of doing these Saturday morning performances,” Leitner said.