Written by Chris Boyle Thursday, 24 April 2014 00:00
The Farmingdale Public Library was recently the site of the rumbling feet and powerful roars of the mighty dinosaur, come to life in modern times... at least in the form of some dedicated actors playing the parts to the hilt for the sake of education and fun.
The Wildlife Theater, a part of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s educational department, was on-hand at the library on April 17, bringing its unique form of lighthearted children’s entertainment containing vital information about the world in which kids live, and the fascinating creatures that share it with them.
The Wildlife Theater works out of the Central Park Zoo, traveling around the five boroughs of New York—as well as Long Island—to put on shows at venues such as elementary schools, libraries, and hospitals; they specialize in taking their conservation message along with them in the form of plays about animals and the environment, according to the Conservation Society’s Michael Birch.
“Our goal is to educate,” he said. “We not only want to teach people about animals, but also about what they can do to help save animals through conservation. We talk about recycling a lot, as well as reducing how much waste we generate. “
Birch spoke a little about the program that the Wildlife Theater Company was putting on that day; a delightful yarn involving time travel, song, dance, and plenty of participation with the many youngsters in attendance. Oh, and let’s not forget few dinosaurs as well, including a visit at one point by a mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex; or, an actor dressed up as one anyway, which the children in the audience seemed to find no less engaging.
“Our show today illustrates that modern animals, as well as dinosaurs, have adaptations that they use to help them to survive; a connection to that bygone era, even though it was millions of years ago,” Birch said.
Adaptations: A Dinosaur Musical is a three-person show; the Wildlife Theater has a troupe of about ten actors and actresses in total, and puts on performances about three or four times a week throughout the year. The lessons they try to impart upon impressionable young minds, Birch said, go hand-in-hand with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s goal of saving both the many species of wildlife living on the planet, and the rapidly-shrinking habitats that they live in as well.
“The Wildlife Conservation Society not only runs the five zoos in New York—the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and the New York Aquarium—but it’s also an organization that helps to save wildlife all over the world,” he said. “We have more than 500 projects going on, as well as over 200 million acres all over the world that we are helping to conserve, specifically for animals and their habitats.”
Wildlife Theater member Susan Slotoroff was celebrating the start of her seventh year with the acting troupe, and said that providing a show for kids that is both exciting and enriching takes both empathy and a great deal of acting skill.
“What I love about the job is that it’s different every time,” she said. “Sometimes there’s ten kids, sometimes there’s 400 kids, so sometimes you have to gauge how they’re responding and see what does and what doesn’t work. Perhaps they want to participate a little more, for example, or they want to answer more questions, so you always have to think on your feet and see what gets them engaged.”
Farmingdale resident Christine Osgood attended the performance that evening with her son Alex, 6. She said that the show was a great way to convey both fun and knowledge in an easily-digestible, kid-size format.
“I think it was really good... the Wildlife Theater Company put on an excellent show,” she said. “I thought it was entertaining for the kids, and educational at the same time. It was perfect.”
Little Alex certainly seemed to be in totally agreement with his mom that evening.
“I really liked the show... I like dinosaurs a lot,” he said. “I learned today that birds are relatives of dinosaurs. That’s a really cool thing to know.”
Young Canden, 3, sporting a t-shirt emblazoned with the silhouette of a mighty T-Rex on the rampage, was obviously quite the dinosaur enthusiast; he appeared to be quite animated after the conclusion of the play.
“It was really good,” he said. “Dinosaurs are old, from a long time ago. I like them, and the play was fun. I learned lots of things.”
Karen Tanacan, Canden’s mother, said that your local library can be an invaluable source of free entertainment and education, all wrapped up into one; it’s something more people should take advantage of, she said.
“I thought it was great,” she said. “I thought the performers were very animated, and they kept all the kids’ interest...and they even scared some of the kids. I thought it was really wonderful, and I appreciate the library making programs like this available to residents.
Plus, we go to the zoo a lot, and they’re doing a dinosaur show there now, so we’re looking forward to seeing that as well.”