Sunday, January 26, 2014


"Swallows and Amazons" is being presented as part of a new "COCA Presents" series that focuses on producing more of the Center of Creative Arts' own family-friendly theatre in St. Louis with local talent.  Based on a series of books first published in 1930 by Arthur Ransome and adapted for the stage by Helen Edmundson, "Swallows" is getting its American premiere right here in town.

When an older Ms. Walker (Taylor Pietz) picks up a feather duster, her memories take her, and us, back to her childhood with her siblings where their playtime adventures on a boat called the Swallow were only limited by their own imaginations.
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
The Walker kids, or the "Swallows" -- Titty (Julia Schweizer), Roger (Michael Harp), John (Braden Phillips) and Susan (Sarah Koo), head off for a night of camping on an island in the lake.  They soon meet the "Amazons" -- Blackett sisters Nancy (Shannon Walsh) and Peggy (Maria Knasel).  These two "tribes" join together to evade pirates, battle barbarians and weather thunderstorms.  It was easy to get caught up in the action -- at one point the audience members were given sheets of paper, or "ammunition", to crumple up and throw at the enemy during the "Battle of Houseboat Bay".

Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Directors Alec Wild and Shanara Gabrielle had some wonderfully talented kids to work with who all gave strong performances, along with support from the adults (Pietz, Pete Winfrey and Steve Isom).  The design elements are as imaginative as the kids' exploits, with sheets and ribbons to represent water, and scenic design by Robert Morgan that evoked the image of the ribs of a ship.  Spot on costume design by Garth Dunbar, Maureen Berry's effective lighting design and an almost constant supply of evocative sound design contributed seamlessly to a fun theatre experience for the kids and the adults.  (You should have seen me hurl that paper!)

Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
This play with music had a short run with one more performance today, but if it's any indication of what this COCA Presents series has in store, there will be many more great things to look forward to.


Adapted for the stage by Helen Edmundson, based on the book by Arthur Ransome
Songs by Neil Hannon
Directed by Alec Wild and Shanara Gabrielle
through January 26 | tickets: $10 - $14
Performances Saturday at 2pm & 5pm, Sunday at 1pm

Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Taylor Pietz (Mom/Old Titty), Pete Winfrey (Mr. Jackson/Policeman/Father), Julia Schweizer (Titty Walker), Michael Harp (Roger Walker), Braden Phillips (John Walker), Sarah Koo (Susan Walker), Steve Isom* (Captain Flint/James Turner), Shannon Walsh (Nancy Blackett), Maria Knasel* (Peggy Blackett) and Reagan Kate Austin (Ensemble/Polly).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Music direction by Neal Richardson; scenic design by Robert Morgan; costume design by Garth Dunbar; lighting design by Maureen Berry; puppet artisan, Maria Ojascastro; props design by Jenny Smith; movement direction by Jef Awada; stage manager, Sarah Luedloff.

Cello, Ethan Edwards; keyboard/percussion/guitar, Steve James Neale; keyboard, Neal Richardson.

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