I would like to speak to the success of Theatre de Jeunesse's recent production of "Once Upon A Mattress" in Marietta. The hard work and talent of the organizers and youth cast cannot go unrecognized. Theatre de Jeunesse (meaning "theater of the youth" in French) is a theater arts organization for Mid-Ohio Valley high school and college aged young people. This was only their second production following last year's "Les Miserables : School Edition," which created quite a buzz itself and helped fill the seats again for this year's show.
Most of us see youth theater in a production's description and immediately lower our expectations, but that was completely unnecessary in the case of TDEJ's "Once Upon A Mattress!" The program describes itself as "pre-professional." This is entirely accurate. Not only did the young people show poise and bravery in their portrayals of various cartoony characters, but the crew (director Andrew Clovis especially) crafted a production with a totally unique flavor. This is rare in community theater shows, youth or adult, which often end up getting the job done in an easy to digest, expected manner. TDEJ, on the other hand, presented us with a colorful 1970s medieval mashup (as opposed to the usual realistic approach to set and costumes) for this hilarious retelling of "The Princess and the Pea."
I assume that unconventional staging, such as this one, is rare in small-town shows due to lack of time and funds. But don't let this glowing review confuse you, TDEJ is in need of major financial help to even consider going ahead for another production in the summer of 2013. Their website is tdej.org and I encourage all of us to learn more about the organization and do whatever we can to ensure this isn't the last we hear from them. I know I'm not alone in my belief arts education serves communities in a big way.