Hill on Tour, a new initiative for the Arts Department, made its debut with four benefit performances of Aladdin for the Tri-county Performing Arts Center in Pottstown, Saturday and Sunday, February 28 and March 1. Following that, the company of six performed in schools throughout eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Regrettably, three of the nine original school performances had to be cancelled due to the worst snow storm of the season. However, Hill on Tour members were still able to perform for more than 1,400 young people in kindergarten through third grade.
The cast, consisting of Joe Donley ’09, Zoey Erdenebileg ’10, Mickey Galamba ’12, Enjolie Levengood '11, Isabelle Schlick '11 and Joe Solly '10, portrayed a family of gypsies who, tired of selling trinkets to the audience, elected to act out a play. In the guise of teaching each other how to do a play, the audience was introduced to a variety of theatre conventions such as use of costumes and props, the need for warming up, the use of imagination, and audience participation before watching the actual play of Aladdin. A unique feature of this form of participatory theatre is the use of a mime that provides all the props needed for the show.
Once the play began, the audience was asked to grow into flowers, growl like tigers to scare away a menacing bird, and build magical bricks to create a palace of light. Throughout the play, the cast and audience worked as a team to solve problems confronting Aladdin which eventually led to a happy ending.
Plans are already underway for a second tour next year during the same time period, the first full week of spring break. Next year’s production will be Rumpelstiltskin, a play similar in structure to this year’s by the same author, Moses Goldberg. Burt Merriam, who directed the production, served as Goldberg’s tour manager in the early '70s while he was a graduate student at Florida State University and Mr. Merriam eventually completed four years as a tour member, performing in similar productions for more than 60,000 young people each year throughout the southeastern United States.