Bowie State University kicks off WonderWorks, its new children’s theater program, on Friday with a play for elementary school students called “The Big Bad Bullysaurus.”
The play will run March 1-2 and 8-9 in the 120-seat BlackBox Theater in the campus’ new Fine and Performing Arts Center in Bowie.
“It’s about bullying and paleontology,” said director Bob Bartlett, assistant professor of theater at BSU, who is contacting local schools about attending.
Written by Tommy Jamerson, the 45-minute production with five student cast members in six roles is about Mark (Julian Walker-Rodwell), a paleontologist, who finds out that his niece, Natalie (Janae’ Barker), is being harassed by a bully at Dinossori Elementary.
Mark tells her the story of Ryan Rex Jr. (Charles Franklin), a little dinosaur who is being harassed by Billy Bullysaurus (Evan Moffitt).
With help from two good friends, Terry Pterodactyl (Tiffany Gardner) and Bronnie Brontosaurus (also played by Walker-Rodwell), Ryan and Natalie learn some lessons about friendship and the importance of forgiveness.
“We believe Prince George’s County and central Maryland are woefully underserved by children’s theater,” said Bartlett about plans to do two or three plays a season.
Right now WonderWorks is using unpaid student actors, but organizers hope to eventually compensate students and also bring in outside actors.
“We want to give our students the opportunity to work with professionals,” said Bartlett, who said the new program welcomes contributions from individuals and organizations to help it grow.
Bartlett and co-organizer Gail Medford, who coordinates BSU’s theater program, also hope to see WonderWorks expand with productions and activities for young children in the region.
“Community theater groups do shows [with roles for kids], but they’re not consistent and they don’t offer activities,” Medford said.
“We’re thinking of having something once or twice a month on Saturdays, as well as a summer camp along with summer repertory [productions],” she said.
WonderWorks also could offer plays that incorporate educational themes having to do with math, environmental science and health, she said.
“We also want to commission plays [for children],” said Medford, noting that BSU’s theater program already takes new plays to an annual reading at the Kennedy Center.
Medford and Bartlett see the new WonderWorks children’s theater company as a boon for students but also a way to involve the community with the new $71 million performing arts center at Bowie State.
“We want to bring kids and families in,” Bartlett said. “There’s nothing in central Maryland serving our population. People have to go to Imagination Stage or Adventure Theatre in Montgomery County or D.C. or northern Virginia.”