Each year, during the fourth week of short term, yellow school buses arrive on campus to transport Lewiston preschoolers, kindergartners, and elementary school kids to see the Short Term musical. The Robinson Players, Bates’s student-run theatre group, puts on the show as a community engagement project, connecting the Bates and Lewiston communities through theatre.
Performing the Short Term musical is a unique highlight of the Bates experience for many. The energy of the schoolkids as an audience is always so full of wonder and enthusiasm. Singing, dancing, and creating a magical world for young audiences through the show is rewarding and fun.
This year, the magical world being created for the Lewiston schoolchildren is “Seussical,” a musical that is comprised of the works and stories of Dr. Seuss. The show follows Jojo, a young child, who thinks up an entire Seussian world, and then navigates it with the help of The Cat in the Hat. Along the way, Jojo encounters Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, Mayzie La Bird, The Sour Kangaroo, many other fascinating creatures.
The rehearsal process for the Short Term musical is like no other. Auditions are held before finals week in April, and the show is cast before April break. Students rehearse daily for three weeks and perform five weekday shows during the fourth week of Short Term.
In choosing to put on Seussical, co-directors Rebecca Berger ’19 and Hope French ’18 picked the show for the wonderful messages it sends young audiences. Berger explained that the show exemplifies that, “You don’t need to change yourself to be liked by other people.” “My life, and the lives of the women around me, have been affected by what society has told us that we need to change, in order to be liked or respected or noticed.” Seussical tells audiences, “You are who you are, and people will like you for who you are.”
French echoed that the show urges kids to accept themselves and tells them that, “Being yourself is the best way of being,” and that, “People matter, no matter who they are or what they are.” “I want the kids to come and have a learning experience,” and “take in the spectacle” of the Seussical, French explains. She hopes young audiences realize that learning about Seussical’s important messages “really can be done in a fun and exciting way.”
In creating a unique and vital learning experience for the young Lewiston audiences, Berger and French utilized some of the show’s messages when making casting decisions. “These magical characters can be genderless,” says Berger. “Gender/sexuality don’t need to really exist in the Seussian world.”
In Berger and French’s “Seussical,” characters traditionally played by females will be played by males, and vice versa. And, Justin Demers ’18 and Zach Collester ’19 were cast as the adorable Mr. Mayor and Mr. Mayor, instead of the show’s traditionally heterosexual mayoral couple. “What you see on the page or on the screen doesn’t have to necessarily be the way it is,” explains Berger.
Casting decisions such as these are incredibly important, especially when they are being imparted on such young minds. When watching the show, Berger hopes the kids see that “every person should be seen, heard, and respected: no matter their size, gender, sexuality, race; anything.” “They still exist and should be respected and have the same rights as everyone else.”
The Robinson Players’ production of “Seussical” will run from May 14 to 18. Though the performances are mainly for the Lewiston school children, there will be one Monday night performance for the Bates community.
Berger looks forward telling the kids to be whatever they want through the show. “This is a crazy world!” And French hopes audiences, young and old alike, “have fun.” “Seussical is so exciting.”