The Broadway for Children’s Theatre Actors

Once upon a time….I was lucky enough to be a student of theatre and communications at IUPUI. The exhausting short-speak known as “Ooey-Ptooey” by the naysayers was known in one class taught by the extraordinary Bruce Waggoner as “Yippee!” Bruce was so right. He has passed on now but his excitement about what IUPUI was and could be has been borne out.
IUPUI means, in practice, Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis. It is an astonishingly well covered place in so far as education is concerned. One can learn ANYTHING there!
I attended IUPUI for a couple of years after leaving the University of Evansville, known for its nursing program and it’s lucky acting alumni from the theatre program. Most notably these days the actor Ron Glass whose long career eventually landed him a job on the cult TV failure/hit Firefly.
He came to speak to us in Evansville one day while flying from Hollywood to NYC and back to shoot the opening sequences of his yet-to-air TV remake The Odd Couple.
He was mostly upset that he had to do this shoot for NO PAY. Also he refused the coffee offered him because he said, “Coffee makes me shit.”
Apart from that I learned nothing from him. He liked money and coffee made him shit. SHIT! Of all the words he uttered during his brief moment with rapt acting students awaiting his words of wisdom and encouragement I remember most, “SHIT.”
Students of the arts. Look within! For without is to find self-involved “shit”.
The time we spent huddled in the theatre with Ron Glass that day was the most useless I have ever spent in pursuit of my truth, my art, my craft. Truth be told, it was heart-rending. Full disclosure, I cannot HELP MYSELF. I still adore his work. That shit!
In short order and for various reasons I left U of E and landed back in my hometown of Indianapolis. At IUPUI.
There are many stories I could relate including meeting the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in person who left us and went on to a successful career on General Hospital as a lead character! But since this is MY blog and not hers…she can write her own story.
They say that “Broadway” for a children’s theatre actor is to have one’s name appear in a published script. If that is truly the case then I shot directly to the top of my profession in the Summer of my 22nd year.
Aurand Harris, the most produced children’s playwright of all time whose plays are numerous and whose plays have been translated into innumerable languages across the globe, had been hired by Indiana to write a typically Hoosier play for children AND to teach children’s playwrighting at IUPUI.
Aurand saw me that year in another children’s play entitled Hallelujah Hopscotch, play a 12 year old against a 9 year old and another 10 year old child. He was so impressed by my talent, his words at the time, that he had me in mind while he wrote the play RIDE A BLUE HORSE, the life and times of the great Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley. He wanted me for the role. And thank goodness he got what he wanted.
The character of Riley spans his entire life from 80 to literally 2 years old. I was in Heaven. Working with many of my friends from the school as well as actors hired-in for their Straw Hat Summer Theatre jobs for that Summer’s White River State Park Arts Festival and performing in the state of the art Indianapolis Children’s Museum theater we all had a very fulfilling experience.
Theatre for children is important. Lessons are taught and learned because live drama in a professional setting helps focus the child’s mind. Theatre for, and also BY, young people must not be lost!



About keithpatrickdunn

Keith grew-up in a one parent home as an only child. Funny thing is he has two brothers and three step-brothers. View all posts by keithpatrickdunn

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