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By R. Eli Townsend
Special to The PREVIEW
Everybody wants to be an Aristocat!
At least, about 20 kids from the Pagosa Springs area want to be. And, on July 20, they will be just that, as the Whatchamawhozits Summer Children’s Playcamp will present their production of “The Aristocats.”
The children spend three weeks playing theatre games, exploring characters, helping make costumes, and working with business professionals to learn what it takes to be a part of a real musical.
Camp counselors Dana Colagiovanni, Jamie Finkenthal and Steven Sitzman are up every day playing games and singing songs with the kids from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Colagiovanni says of the Playcamp, “The best part of this experience is watching the small moments of personal growth each child realizes throughout the process. It’s an honor to share something I’m so passionate about with the next generation, and perhaps we can help a kid find his or her own passion in life. It’s also a way to expose kids to the idea of being themselves. There is no judgment in theatre, and one can be as silly or goofy, or weird as you want to be. No one can take away how special you are when you’re in theatre, because that’s what theatre is about: people’s differences and how it makes the world better and more interesting.”
It looks like the hard work is paying off. In addition to working on a fantastic show based on the classic Disney Studios film “The Aristocats,” the kids and the counselors, as well as Thingamajig Theatre Company’s cast of “Spamalot,” participated in the Fourth of July Parade in downtown Pagosa Springs, and their float won first prize. It’s a testament to the hard work these kids are putting into this summer’s camp.
Laura Moore, executive producer of the Thingamajig Theatre Company, started the Whatchamawhozits Children’s Playcamp as a way to incorporate the community and the youth of Pagosa Springs into the full theatre experience.
“My personal passion for theatre started when I was young,” said Moore, “and I wanted to share that with this community at large. One of my favorite things about theatre, and children’s theatre specifically, is that we can teach kids empathy without having to force that dialogue. They may have never been to Paris, and may never have the chance to go, but through an experience like doing ‘The Aristocats,’ they’ll be able to research and learn a little bit about French class, culture and lifestyle, without even knowing that they’re learning. The show can teach them about class divide, and treating everyone with respect, just by living in the show for these three weeks.”
Moore is referring to the story of “The Aristocats,” which centers around the divide between the rich aristocratic cats (see what they did there?), and the poorer alley cats. Eventually, they band together to bring to justice a common foe that is trying to cause them harm. All of this is in a fun, jazz score-infused package that allows for kids to be themselves.
Be sure to come on July 20 to experience the wonderful efforts of the kids and counselors. “The Aristocats” plays one Saturday only at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door. The show will play at 2 p.m. and again at 3:30 p.m.