Since 1988, Taos Children's Theatre, under the tutelage of director Karen Thibodeau, has presented astonishingly polished performances year after year. Because of TCT, 13,400 visitors have come to experience the magic of live theater
"It's breathtaking," Thibodeau said.
She said she is passionate about live theater because "it is so easy to go to the [movie theatre] and see a film, but live theater with your peers performing is entertainment that teaches; it is tangible; it is real."
This year's spring production, "The Princess and The Pea: From The Viewpoint of The Pea," is loosely based on the 1853 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.
It will open Friday (April 13), 7 p.m., at Enos Garcia Elementary School Auditorium, 305 Don Fernando Street. The show will continue with a second run of performances Saturday (April 14) at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
This reworking of the Danish classic brings anthropomorphic peas to the stage, with dancing and dialogue from Taos Youth Ballet. Thirty-seven young people perform, taking on roles with names like Master Pea Pod, Prince Doubtless, Mistress Sparkle, the Royal Laundress, and Agonesta Princess.
Thibodeau employs a multi-talented and committed staff who come back year after year. Her assistant directors are Victoria Ortiz, Suzette Walker, Christopher Heron, Linda Stokas and choreographer Michelle Roaque. The production features the young actors romping through the pea patch in the Kingdom of Pea Pod.
Nine-year-old Taos Integrated School of The Arts student Sienna Price, who plays the role of Agonesta, said about her character, "I am a snotty princess that comes from Russia … I like that I get to complain all the time and boss my older sisters around in the role."
Price said that she has been acting since she was 5 and started ballet at 3. She is learning how to project her voice on stage with training from director Thibodeau.
Arriana Gonzales, 10, has been acting since she was 7. She said she is playing a very different royal personality from Price, Princess Lea Gonzales.
She approached her role as "a sweet kind little girl, because in the play I have two older sisters who are very sweet ... In the end one stays sweet and the other gets self-obsessed." Veteran child actor James Ryan Cox has been on stage for six years. He is 16.
His character is Frog Morton, who, according to Cox, is "uplifting and snappy … In the end he feels much better because another character comes along and shows gratitude for all he does." Cox said he thinks this production encourages people to appreciate the help of others and, he says, "You got to accept whatever comes your way."
Thibodeau starts with a basic script and keeps rewriting and improvising as the play evolves in rehearsal. The synopsis by Thibodeau goes like this: Word goes out through all the lands that all princesses, preferably wealthy, are invited to the impoverished Royal Court of Pea Pod.
It is the queen's plan that her four sons marry into wealth and save the kingdom. The arc of the production is the pushy princesses' pillow fight over their chosen loves.
Princess Nastursia, performed by Taos Middle Schooler Selene Aragón, ends the fight with a final "Russkie slam." The awkward love quadrilateral's grand finale is a sparring match among the princes, fighting for the princesses of their choice.
This production features multiple pea characters, all residing in the same pod, tended to by Monsieur Petit Pois (Christopher Heron). Snow Pea (Erica Christie) longs to meet a linguini and be in sauce forever. Bling Pea (Layla Martínez) wants to light up the world, and Sweet Pea (Ashlee Martínez) is a perpetual optimist.
Split Pea 3 (Eva Goins), the anxious one in the pod, thinks everyone's going to be soup, and Snap Pea (Serenitie Hunsaker) gets stuck beneath the mattress. Peasy Pea (Amaya Struck) wants to be left to chill in the pod.
The production is sponsored in part by New Mexico Arts, Taos Community Foundation, Taos County lodgers tax and Chevron Mining. In TCT's version of this classic, gym mats were provided by High Altitude Gymnastics. These will be cleverly disguised as mattresses.
A raffle during the performances will benefit the Kingdom of Pea Pod. Prizes include rafting trips from Los Rios, restaurant gift certificates and other goodies donated from local businesses.
Tickets are $10, $8 for students and seniors, and $5 for children age 12 and under.
They are available at the auditorium box office the day of performance. Presale tickets are available at FX-18 Gifts and Jewelry, 103 Bent Street, Suite C in the afternoons. For reservations, call (575) 758-0027.