By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Keith Guion wryly admits to being a bad influence on his three children.
Guion is a theater devotee, as a director and writer, especially children’s theater. And all three of his children have followed his footsteps, and the Horizon Youth theatre and other troupes have been the beneficiaries.
His daughter, Cassie Greenlee of Bowling Green, remembers when she was in fourth grade and had been offered the part of Annie in “Annie Warbucks.”
She was concerned about taking the part, so she discussed it with her father and mother, Wendy Guion.
They didn’t push her, rather discussed the pros and cons. She took the part. “That was the beginning of the end,” she said while waiting for a preview of her father’s current show, “The Fabulous Fables of Aesop.”
Horizon Youth Theatre will stage the show Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Otsego High School. Tickets are $5 and available at the door and at horizonyouththeatre.org.
Guion wrote the “Fabulous Aesop” script a number of years ago while working in the Ashland area.
That’s where his children, including two sons Matthew and Jeffrey Guion, grew up and picked up the love of all aspects of theater.
“I never really encouraged them to get involved,” their father said, “they just sort of did.”
That included acting, all the theater crafts and writing.
The play references 21 of the more than 600 fables attributed to Aesop, the storytelling slave from ancient Greece. Eight of them are acted out, while the rest are mentioned in passing.
“The fables are about universal themes we all recognize,” he said. The behavior of the characters whether animal, human or even plant, are recognizable. “And most of the lessons are still pertinent today.”
This amounts to a double dose of Aesop for the Horizon troupe. The older members staged “The Great Cross Country Race,” based on “The Tortoise and The Hare” in October. That was directed by Greenlee, and featured the human characters talking in “gibberish,” which was penned by Guion.
Now the younger troupe members, those in grades second through sixth, will try their talents on these ancient tales.
He selected the tale, including less known ones such as “The Oak and the Reed,” using the story theater form.
“We are essentially a company of players who get together to tell these stories,” he said. Actors talk directly to the audience.
Each member of the cast of 12 gets a chance to be a narrator and a main character.
Guion started working with Horizon a few years ago when he and his wife moved back to Bowling Green. Guion grew up here, and graduated in 1971 from Bowling Green High School where he studied theater with Karen Landrus.
In high school he got his first taste of theater for children when he was part of a children’s melodrama. He went on to get a bachelor’s degree in theater from Bowling Green State University and a doctorate from the University of Illinois Champaign.
Over the years he’s worked as an adjunct professor, substitute teacher and as a teacher and director for a number of theater troupes in the Ashland area.
His children followed him and other family members to BGSU, and when it came time for his wife to retire after 38 years as a pastor, they returned here.
Greenlee was already involved in Horizon as a director and teacher, and drew her father in.
This is the second full-length show he’s directed for the troupe. He also directed “Seussical” earlier this year for Black Swamp Players. The musical used a host of Horizon actors and starred Jeffrey Guion as the Cat in the Hat.
Guion’s also directed a few one-acts, including those written by his students. For years, he has taught “devising classes” where actors write their own scripts. “I enjoy the brainstorming sessions,” he said. There young actors get to figure out the play, and find their own voices.
That’s just one lesson learned from theater.
Theater instills confidence, and teaches children how to work together. They learn about all the crafts needed to stage a show with costumes and scenery. For the students in Horizon. “It’s a great place to make friends with kids from other schools,” he said.
“Horizon is attracting more kids, and that’s a good thing,” he said.
The enthusiasm of the children is infectious. “There are a lot of kids who just jump in with both feet,” Guion said. Some even tell him: “Theater is my life.”
Certainly a sentiment Guion would applaud.