If your kids can be noisier than buzz saws and rowdier than a pack of cowhands, tonight's their night to shine.
'Long about sundown, that rootin', tootin' cowboy Pecos Bill will mosey into Anaheim's Pearson Park to present "The Pecos Bill Show," a romp through American folklore that brings youngsters face to face with a barrelful of colorful characters. Geared for preschoolers on up, the audience-participation show completes the park's "Just for Kids" series with a 7:30 p.m. performance in the park amphitheater.
"The Pecos Bill Show," presented by three members of the Imagination Company, a Los Angeles-based children's theater troupe, brings to life tall tales of the Old West in a series of short scenes. During the 40-minute show, audiences meet naturalist Johnny Appleseed and see Paul Bunyan match lumberjack skills with a city slicker, and Annie Oakely take on Frank Butler in a pea-shooting contest. To keep things hopping, Pecos lassoes audience volunteers who, aided by simple props and sound effects, are transformed into a whiring buzz saw, a couple of cowhands and even a shootin' match target.
Like other Imagination Company shows, the success of "Pecos Bill" relies more on the active imaginations of children than it does on fancy props and costumes, said co-founder Tom Provenzano.
"We expect children to fill in a lot of the blanks, and they always do it beautifully," said Provenzano, who formed the company in 1984 with actor-writer Teresa Love. "While there are a lot of good things about elaborately staged children's theater, this show brings the kids into a whole different kind of creative energy."
Imagination Company may not be the most widely recognized children's group in the state, but it is among the busiest, Provenzano said. In the past seven years, the troupe, which ranges in size from 5 to 25 actors, has staged over 3,000 performances primarily in Southern California schools. The group recently added a Northern California office and will soon offer shows in Washington, Oregon and Utah.
As the group's artistic director, Love has created nearly 20 original plays geared for students in preschool through high school. In addition to "Pecos Bill," there are tributes to American leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Last year, the troupe premiered its first bilingual show, "Celebracion de Mexico," and in 1991 will salute the Chinese New Year with "Gung Hay Fat Choy, in the Year of the Goat." At all school performances, teachers receive study guides that suggest a variety of pre- and post-performance classroom activities.
Nonetheless, Provenzano doesn't see this as an educational group.
"Our focus is entertainment, with the understanding that everything in our shows is based on historical figures or classical literature. It's meant to be fun, but if we all learn something along the way, that's wonderful, too."
What: "The Pecos Bill Show," presented by the Imagination Company.
When: Thursday, Aug. 23, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Pearson Park Amphitheatre, on Lemon Street between Lincoln and Sycamore in Anaheim.
Whereabouts: Riverside (91) Freeway to Harbor Boulevard, south on Harbor, east on Sycamore, south on Lemon.
Wherewithal: Adults, $2; children 3 to 12 and seniors, $1. Under 3 admitted free.
Where to call: (714) 999-5191.