Teen actors performed “Aesop’s Fables” for children and their families at Kutztown Community Library on June 20. The teens also performed June 25 at Bethel-Tulpehocken Public Library and Bernville Area Library.

The Teen Theater Ensemble from the Yocum Institute for Arts Education are traveling throughout Berks County for the Berks County Public Libraries tour as part of the Summer Quest program.

“Having the Yocum Institute come is always a treat; they always do such a great job,” said Kutztown Community Library's youth librarian, Taylor Kutz. “I love that it’s the Teen Ensemble. They have such a great connection with the kids. They hang out afterwards and talk to them. It’s a great connection and partnership that the libraries have.”

Kutz said “Aesop's Fables” was definitely her favorite so far.

“It was funny and it kept the kids entertained and it was just great all around.”

A live theater performance at the library ties with reading.

Kutz said the library has the “Aesop's Fables” books so the children can check them out and read them at home.

Also, this offers children the opportunity to see a live theater performance for free.

“Summer Quest is all about experiences and creating experiences at the library. There are some kids who have never been to a play before and just being able to create that experience is amazing.”

Beverly Houck, Artistic Director at the Yocum Institute for Arts Education, said “Aesop's Fables” is by Mike Kenny. She likes a lot of his works through Plays for Young Audiences.

“It’s very thoughtful in the way that it’s put together that every moment that could be considered a lag automatically has something else that’s really fun. It tells stories in little snippets,” said Houck. “Aesop’s Fables are so classic and so many kids don’t know those stories so it’s wonderful to have something like this to introduce them.”

Upcoming performances include 10:30 a.m. Aug. 2 at Oley Valley Community Library, 1 p.m. Aug. 6 at Schuylkill Valley Community Library, 6:30 p.m. Aug. 6 at Exeter Community Library, 1 p.m. Aug. 12 at Hamburg Public Library, and 11:45 a.m. Aug. 14 at Brandywine Community Library.

At the Kutztown performance, Amaya Waller, 15, Wyomissing, portrayed Harriet; Nate Houck, 16, Wyomissing, was Wolfie; Benjamin Houck, 14, Wyomissing, was Sid and Katherine Grey, 16, West Lawn, portrayed Barry.

Roles rotate for the different performance sites. Cast members also include Ariel Ulrich, Wernersville; Oliver Felding, Mt. Penn; Jack Woods, West Lawn; Delaney Gable, Robesonia; Sammy Clay, Shillington; and Morgan Welliver, Wyomissing.

“I really like the way that I can work with different people, because we do so many different types of performances and styles of acting, it really helps diversify what you can do,” said Waller.

One of her characters was the very fast Hare. She enjoys performing in the library summer tour.

“You get to connect with people, especially since we’re an ensemble,” said Waller. “You form really good relationships and then you learn different things about people and how they act on stage, so that you can work better with them.”

Houck said the teen actors benefit from participating in the Teen Ensemble.

“It’s really great for them in a lot of ways,” said Houck. “I think it’s great because not only is it an opportunity to perform, and everyone in the group wants to do performing, they also learn a lot of life skills. It’s having to schedule the timing and sharing the roles and having to really work together as an ensemble, including unloading and loading. It’s kind of as close to real-world early actor life that you could have even in a professional world.”

Houck thanks the Friends of the Berks County Public Libraries for arranging the Teen Ensemble’s Berks library tour every summer.

“It’s such a great collaboration, one because of the work with the libraries but also the teens doing things for younger kids and just that give and take,” said Houck. “It’s been a really wonderful partnership that I’m very grateful for.”

She also hopes the show encourages kids to read.

“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to bring stories and books and characters alive to help kids look at things differently. We hope that performances and things like this make them want to go check out a book and ask their parents to read to them or start reading themselves,” said Houck.

To become a part of the ensemble, teens can audition. For details, go to https://institute-of-arts.org/tag/teen-theater-ensemble/. The program is scholarship based.

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Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

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