Families can explore the power of giving as a part of InterAct Story Theatre’s fresh adaptation of “One Gold Coin-Una moneda de oro,” a play written by the group’s founding director Lenore Blank Kelner.
Set to take the stage from Sept. 9 to 18 at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center Theatre, the Wheaton-based professional touring theatre for young audiences and arts-in-education organization first performed the play in 1999. “We try to balance new, original plays with plays that we think of as InterAct classics,” said Ali Oliver-Kruger, executive artistic director. Since InterAct does educational assemblies, plays and performances at schools, libraries and community venues throughout the region, they wait at least six or seven years before mounting a new production of a play in their repertoire.
“As we were building our (2016-17) season and we were looking around at our company members and the work we were doing, one of the plays that was up in the repertoire for us to consider was ‘One Gold Coin’,” Oliver-Krueger said. “We reread the script again, which we had not done in quite some time, and all of us really fell in love with the theme of this play.”
The play, performed in English and Spanish, is set in Regalo, El Salvador, where a healer named Dona Teresa comes to help the sick. She has a magical coin that benefits the person to whom it is given, but the caveat is that it can only go to an individual who is truly in need. “The magic in the coin is not in getting it, but in being able to give that away to someone who needs it more than you,” Oliver-Krueger explained. “We thought that was such a beautiful message for our times. A lot of us feel like we have it really tough, but we still always have something to give and we found that to be really beautiful.”
Elicia Moran plays the role of Dona Teresa in the upcoming production. “I just love the whole message of the story,” she said. “I think it is so great and powerful for kids to understand that sometimes it’s better to give than to get, and that sometimes there are people out there who might need things more than you do, and so, to be able to help others is such an important lesson.”
Last staged during the 2008-09 season, new aspects were added for this run. “We work in schools with high Latino populations and we thought ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to take this beautiful piece in our repertoire and to really help our kids connect with it even more?’,” said Oliver-Krueger. Thus, InterAct developed a bilingual adaptation and incorporated music from the Latin American musical duo Cantaré.
Moran, who is from El Salvador, enjoys the great detail the production took to capture aspects of Salvadorian culture including using bright colors and the music. “It’s nice to have those El Salvadorian flavors put into the show to make the setting and everything feel culturally El Salvadorian,” she said.
Rehearsals began early in August for the stage show, but the play was part of InterAct’s educational programs tour last season. “We performed for roughly 20,000 kids and adults throughout our region,” Oliver-Krueger said. “We have remounted this as a theatrical production so we have some of the cast returning and some of the team is new.”
Oliver-Krueger, who is directing the show, was first inspired to try acting as a child seeing shows performed at her school. While doing theatrical work in college and beyond, she was repeatedly drawn to the educational arts. As a professional opera singer, she participated in educational outreach for the company where she worked as an apprentice. “I found (the outreach) was the work that I was energized by and that was the work I really believed in so I just followed that path and it led me to here (InterAct in 2003).”
She decided to direct as a way to diversify the works she saw on stage. “One of the things I found early on was that, in many ways, as a woman of color, as an actor of color, that the best way for me to find work was to create work,” she said. “As I began directing, I became interesting in playwriting and I found that there were stories that I wanted to see, but I didn’t get to see on stage. There were stories that I felt I wanted to hear and stories that I thought kids that were like (myself at 5 to 7 years old) might have loved to have seen on stage and I wanted to help put those stories out there. I became really interested in creating theater and creating arts experiences.”
The cast features two additional actors, Javier Del Pilar and Elle Sullivan, each of whom takes on a variety of characters. Oliver-Krueger says the audience members also become actors in the play. “When we go to a school and we perform for 300 children, we like to say there are 303 actors in the show–the three actors on stage and the 300 actors in the audience,” she said.
The show “is an opportunity to have a really fun, moving theatrical experience that is engaging,” Oliver-Krueger said. “It’s an experience where you can feel good about bringing your kids to this show. It’s theater that allows us really to be participatory and really experience this as somebody right there in the show. …One thing we are really hoping is that it will spark conversations at home. As part of this, we include post performance activities and discussion questions in our playbills. We really want to be able to spark activities and discussions so guests can talk about values at home.”
As part of the play’s run, the group will present a sensory-friendly performance on Sept. 11 at 1:30 p.m. and performances for elementary and home-schooled children on Sept. 9 and 16. Visit http://interactstory.com.