children’s theater

Horizon kids play out Aesop’s immortal lessons

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Horizon Youth Theatre’s production “The Fabulous Fables of Aesop” begins in chaos. We have 10 kids talking at once, as fast as they can. They are trying to tell all of Aesop’s fables, and this is the only way they think that they can accomplish the feat. That’s a hilariously real moment. Kids acting like kids. They do realize telling all the tales, about 600 at last count, even in that chaotic way would be impossible. What the Horizon Troupe does, using director Keith Guion’s script, is introduce us to the ancient fabulist’s world with a handful of those tales, little more than anecdotes, that continue to resonate to this day. Our language is spiked with phrases and lessons from the Greek storyteller’s fables, standing with Shakespeare and the Bible as a source for aphorisms and turns of phrase. Horizon Youth Theatre is staging “The Fabulous Fables of Aesop” tonight (Nov. 11) and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the auditorium for Otsego High School. Tickets are $5. Visit horizonyouththeatre.org. Beside its exploration of the tales of Aesop, the script offers a look into what it’s like to stage a youth theater production. Starting with chaos, the actors go through all the various chores they need to right on stage. The setting is simple a few blocks that the actors themselves mostly move into place from tale to tale. A table is located at the rear of the stage where they collect props and the costumes. The opening dialogue even talks about scripting, how Aesop’s large output of fables will need to be trimmed down to a manageable number. They seemingly cast on the spot. As the moral of the first fable explains, they are stronger working as a team. That’s the message conveyed by a farmer (Lauren Carmen) to his brood of children, who learn a bunch of sticks is harder to break than an individual stick. True to the democratic nature of this troupe, the roles are evenly parsed out, with everyone getting a chance in the spotlight. There are roles, big and small, human and animal, inanimate and animate. Even the youngest, second grader Alice Walters and third grader Liam Rogel, get turns to narrate tales in addition to playing mice, pebbles and other roles. Yelia Xu holds her head high in her solo spot as the milkmaid whose dreams get ahead of themselves. Eli Marx plays Androcles, in “Androcles and the Lion,” one of the more involved skits. That piece includes Gavin Miller as a lion with Rose Walters as the cruel master. Three fables get wrapped up into one in “Bells.” Edna Motion entertains a group of hiding mice by telling the story of “The Mischievous Dog” while outside the cat (Alice Walters) awaits. Mary Helen Delisle gets to shine as the sun as well as playing a mouse. Paige Suelzer plays the emperor and a fox while Emma Kate Holbrook adds her talents in a variety of roles. All this comes together without losing the energy of child’s play. Yes, they are a troupe of actors, but they also always seem like a bunch of kids. Some are small, just old enough to start hanging with the gang, and some are ready to move on. They work together, play together, and take care of each other. That’s a lesson worthy of Aesop.    


Keith Guion is a master of family entertainment

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…