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Holiday Return Engagement for 'Tinkerbell Theatre,' Two Fairy Tale Plays in Rep

Adele Bossard

Tots need live theater during the Christmas break and the Upper West Side needs more daytime activities for pre- and lower schoolers during the tinsel season.

So Lynnea Benson, Artistic Director of Frog and Peach Theatre Company, is bringing back Tinkerbell Theater, two fairy tale plays performed in rotating repertory, December 26 to 31 at the West End Theater, 263 West 86th St. (between Broadway and West End Ave.) The plays, "Cinderella" and "The Tinderbox," had been mounted this fall, playing to growing and appreciative audiences.

Each show is followed by a puppet making workshop, in which the kids in attendance make their own sock puppets.

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TINKERBELL THEATRE -- Cinderella (Kaitlin Large) finds her Prince Dreamboat (Brando Boniver) in "Cinderella." Photo by Adele Bossard.

Tinkerbell Theatre is Benson's name for her repertoire of plays that enact classical fairy tales with Rocky-and-Bullwinkle style dialogue, toe-tapping songs and big, soft puppets. "Cinderella" is adapted from the original Brothers Grimm story and "The Tinderbox" is adapted from Hans Christian Anderson. The plays are acted by a cast of six. In both plays, the heroes are played by actors and the villains are played by soft, playful puppets. There are songs are written by Ted Zurkowski, who is co-founder of Frog and Peach.

"Cinderella" (performed daily at 12:30 PM and 3:00 PM) is a riotous new take on the familiar story of a young girl dispossessed by her murderous Stepmother and wicked Stepsisters. Her friendship with two magical birds (played by puppets) helps her go to the Three Day Ball, where she meets a socially awkward Prince Dreamboat with whom she plays Crazy Eights and compares notes on Ornithology. His parents, the King and Queen (also puppets) are eager to marry him off so they can retire happily to Boca. Now, if only he were able to get that darned slipper to slip onto one of the girls in the kingdom, most of whom are so desperate to marry royalty that they would whittle their feet for a fit!

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TINKERBELL THEATRE -- Children get a chance to meet Cinderella (Kaitlin Large) and create their own puppets in Frog & Peach's Puppet-Making Workshop. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

"The Tinderbox" (performed daily at 11:30 AM and 2:00 PM) is a story of a pure-hearted soldier who finds happiness in an enchanted forest, where he overcomes the schemings of a Wicked Witch, befriends three unforgettable Dogs and wins a beautiful (but lonesome) Princess with the help of a magical Tinderbox that brings you whatever your heart desires...with hilarious results!

All puppets are by Spica Wobbe, an independent puppetry artist from Taiwan whose work has been prominent in the Voice 4 Vision Puppet Festival and works by Chinese Theatre Works, Creative Arts Team, Great Small Works, and Australian Aboriginal Theatre Initiative, among others. She received an MA. in Educational Theater from NYU and has been a teaching artist for New Victory Theater.

The plays are acted by Kaitlin Large, Erick Gonzalez, Brando Boniver, Alexandra Poncelet Del Sole, Jonathan Reed Wexler and Lynnea Benson. Set design is by Andy Estep; costume design by Asa Benally.

Frog and Peach Theatre Company (www.frogandpeachtheatre.org) is widely known for its popular Upper West Side productions of Shakespearean plays. This fall, it presented "The Taming of the Shrew" simultaneously with Tinkerbell Theater at the West End Theater in October-November. The troupe aims to dispel the "rocket science" myth of Shakespeare by bringing wildly entertaining productions of Shakespeare's plays to general audiences. They don't dumb down the texts or adapt plays to the modern period, but they painstakingly craft the scripts to appeal to audiences of all types. Frog and Peach developed Tinkerbell Theatre as a different kind of classics, exclusively for kids. The series had its debut run November, 2009 to January, 2010 and a return engagement in May, 2010. Audience feedback testified that its "Rocky-and-Bullwinkle style" humor was relished by young and old alike. One Upper West Side mom who wrote in, "We absolutely loved 'Cinderella'and our three children, aged 7, 3 and 2, sat enraptured throughout. Even their jaded mothers found it funny!"

Lynnea Benson (Writer/Director), Artistic Director and co-founder of The Frog & Peach Theatre Co., has directed a number of projects there, including"Hamlet"starring Austin Pendleton,"King John" starring Academy Award nominee Catalina Sandino Merino and"As You Like It"starring Sidney Williams.She's a member of The Actors Studio and attended Barnard College.

Tinkerbell Theatre will be presented December 26 to 31 on the following schedule: "The Tinderbox" at 11:30 AM and 2:00 PM each day and "Cinderella" at 12:30 PM and 3:00 PM each day. Admission is $10 in advance online and $12 at the door. Tickets are available online at www.smarttix.com or by calling (212) 868-4444. They may also be purchased in-person at the theater hour prior to the performance. Running Time is 45 minutes. All performances are followed by a puppet-making workshop. (Please bring an old sock to make into a puppet, or you can purchase an optional puppet kit for $10.) The company's website is www.frogandpeachtheatre.org.

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