Youth

YS Kids Playhouse spotlights Bond, parkour movement

YS Kids Playhouse kicks off its summer programming beginning Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with the opening show of A Price to Pay: Before Bond Became 007. Running for two consecutive weeks, Thursday through Sunday, the production, written by YSKP alum Daniel Malarkey, tells the story of the teenage James Bond and how he earned his lucky 007.

The play will take place at the Antioch College Amphitheater July 9–12 and 16–19. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students, and group and family tickets are available in booklets of five for $35. Reservations are not required, and tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance online at www.yskp.org.

In the words of Stage Manager Kevin Malarkey, the play allows for the essential romance, espionage, horror and comedy necessary for a Bond piece, but in a way that is good for kids.

This play is a bit different than most YSKP efforts, because in this case, the writer, YSKP alum Daniel Malarkey, wrote the piece with the actors, the audience and the amphitheater in mind. And he wrote it to move like cinema — creating an action-packed performance piece that integrates all the classic intrigues (and famous lines) of a Bond film.

“My idea was to write a prequel to Casino Royale about what Bond would have been like as a teenager,” playwright Malarkey said. So he enriched his own Bond knowledge with further research, including a pseudo-biography by John Pearson.

“Bond is a colonialist figure in the British imagination,” called a “misogynist dinosaur” and a “relic of the cold war” in the film Golden Eye, according to Malarkey.

“But there are a lot of contradictions” in his character, Malarkey said. While he couldn’t explore all of these issues of race, gender, and what constitutes a national hero, they were on his mind as he focused on creating a good action play, he said.

“Usually, YSKP plays are written as mostly dialogue, then the director deals with that,” fleshing out the actions of the characters, Malarkey said. This play was written more as a screenplay, which presented certain challenges for the director to translate to the stage. Malarkey and YSKP Creative Director John Fleming worked together throughout the year to take the “initial idea of a cinematic James Bond, and turn it into a theatrical James Bond,” he said.

“I would call it an action play with music,” Malarkey said.

“There is a lot of action on the stage,” Fleming said. Another YSKP alum, Charlie Cromer, is serving as “fight coordinator,” and has worked to create Bond-like action between two — or as many as 25 — actors on stage.

The choreographer, William McClellan, integrated parkour, a Parisian urban-folk movement style that is similar to the Afro-Brazilian capoeira, into the production. McClellan has worked in this style with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and Fleming asked him to bring its international, urban street-culture appeal to this production.

The music for this production, a score by Neil Kirkwood, is also exciting, according to every crew and cast member surveyed. It’s jazz, but with a swing beat, a slight departure from the usual blues-based musical Fleming is accustomed to.

“It has a different kind of beat, and a different kind of tone,” Fleming said. “Sometimes it’s kind of doo-wop, other times it’s swing and windy, and every now and then, it dips into something that is almost operatic.”

To top it off, A Price to Pay is proving to be a truly intergenerational affair, with contributors including actors from the first YSKP production to its eighth production, and the crew ranging from their 20s through their 60s.

This creates “an incredible range of influences,” according to Fleming, who said he is “tickled” with this year’s artistic staff. “I am pleased that YSKP is able to pay 16 people to participate in this production,” Fleming said, and he figures about 90 percent of this money will cycle back through the local economy.

“YSKP has always paid as many artists as possible,” Fleming said, but this year, with the expansion into immersion programs and Tween Workshop activities, the spectrum of paid participants has been a little broader than in years past. Also, about 30 kids are participating this year, as cast and crew.

With YSKP alum writing, managing and coordinating the show (and teaching the Tween Workshops which started this week with kids as young as 5 years old), many of the early YSKP troupe is still active, and is now engaging a fresh round of the community’s youth. And those who are participating in their eighth and final season see the opportunity, first hand, to come back in the future as leaders and producers.

“It takes a long time to get an organization to this point,” Lisa Hunt, executive director and education coordinator said, “but after 15 years, YSKP is beginning to see the process come full circle.”

According to Hunt, the absolute best way to support YSKP and to support the community’s youth participants is to come see the show. The Antioch amphitheater can seat 400 per night, Hunt said, and performing to a group of 400 is a very different experience for the company than performing to a group of 100 or less.

“If you have never seen theater before, this is the show to see. The music is fantastic, it’s exciting, and the kids are great,” Hunt said.

Watching his work come alive through the actor’s interpretation is the most exciting thing for Malarkey, whose A Price to Pay is his first piece as a playwright.

“When you see it come together, and the kids read your lines, you realize everyone will understand it differently,” he said. Lines he thought were funny are flat, where lines he thought were flat are funny when portrayed by someone else.

“When you write something, the work is not done. It will continue in other people’s imaginations,” he said. For more information, visit www.yskp.org.

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