When we first see Sarah from Pollyanna Theatre Company’s “Sarah the Dinosaur,” she is meek. The second-grader and her class are visiting a museum and all the other kids pair up and are having a fine time. She is left out.
When we last see Sarah, she has found her voice and learned how to use it appropriately, and has learned a lot of cool things about dinosaurs.
The production at the Long Center is designed for preschoolers and early elementary-school children. It was written by Kathleen Fletcher and Andrew Perry, and five actors play all the characters from students and teachers to family members and dinosaurs.
In this production, you get to see a little bit of how theater is made as you watch a stagehand or the actors move the sets to turn a museum into a home, school yard or classroom. You also watch a table turn into a bed. It’s a great entry into theater for children who have never seen a live production.
“Sarah the Dinosaur” is also insight into a young girl’s mind. As Sarah played by Uyen-Anh Dang reads a dinosaurs book, dinosaurs appear on the stage and act how she might imagine. They do the hula, they fly like an airplane, they go to the grocery store for a steak. It reminds kids that imagination and creativity are good.
Some of the performances are over-the-top, especially from the dinosaurs, which made the audience giggle. However, there a disconnect between how the children act and the idea that they are second-graders. Some of their behavior makes them feel more like preschoolers, yet they are reading and writing.
The mother is a 1950s housewife stereotype with a robe and hair rollers. All she’s missing is the dangling cigarette. The teacher is like no elementary school teacher I know. She’s unobservant and unprofessional. She definitely doesn’t have control of this classroom. She has a good heart, though.
The obnoxious kids and the dumbed-down adults remind of the shows on the Disney Channel that present an idea that parents are always stupid and children can get attention for being obnoxious.
“Sarah” definitely sends a message that is worth seeing: Growing up is not just about getting bigger; it’s about growing on the inside by admitting when you are wrong and learning how to find your voice.
Summer can be a hard time to find good theater for kids to see. This summer, we’ve been lucky: “Inside Out” is in movie theaters and “Sarah the Dinosaur” is on stage. Think of them as companion pieces to the lesson of growing up and dealing with emotions.
Pollyanna Theatre Co.presents “Sarah the Dinosaur.”
When: 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 4 p.m. Saturday.
Where: The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive.
Read about past Pollyanna Theatre productions here, here and here.