Not too many plays produced in the Bakersfield community are suitable for children, as they deal with adult themes. That rules out many plays that parents and their kids can watch together.
“The Imaginators” is a children’s play put on by the California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB) Theatre for Young Audiences. It is both kid-friendly and entertaining.
“The Imaginators” is a story of three children and the power of imagination. Anne, played by Melissa Larios, and her brother Tim, played by Jonathan Frigillana, have just moved to a new town, and Tim has a very active imagination.
Tim enjoys playing superheroes and has a penchant for making up stories, especially the one about Pete the deer, whom Tim says he found as a baby, claiming that they were “like best friends, even though he was a deer.” This tale turns out to be false, as Anne calls out Tim for making this story up.
Anne refuses to play with Tim, afraid that the new kids at school will make fun of her if they see what her brother is up to.
The girl next door, Nina Frances Elizabeth Vanderhelden comes over to Tim’s garage and joins him in the world of make-believe by playing a princess. Nina is played by Miriam Y. Rodriguez.
Anne is upset at this, but is persuaded by Nina to join them in the fantasy world. Together the three of them take on the child-eating monster, the Mooklecratz, played by puppeteers Courtney Hoover and Monica Martinez.
This all takes place in a garage, where a dust ruffler is used as flowers, a hula hoop is used as a crystal ball, and a clock and Frisbee are used as shields against the Mooklecratz, whom they defeat in the end.
The play encourages children and adults to use their imagination and that they can be anything they want to be. It also has tidbits of wisdom mixed in.
When Anne asks Nina why she doesn’t put on a façade so that the kids at school will like her (Nina had admitted that she was unpopular with her peers), Nina offers these sage words:
“If I had to act like someone else to be popular, I’d rather be unpopular and me.”
Nina’s real name is revealed to be Nina Lynn Fleck when her brother William, played by Joaquin Calderon, calls out for Nina, using her full name.
Nina admits to not liking her real name, hence the change when she meets new people, such as Tim and Anne.
The play frightened some children and young adults alike, when the puppeteers playing the Mooklecratz made loud scary noises as Anne, Tim and Nina were fighting it. Other scary effects include the props rattling all over the “garage” and flashing red lights that glowed in the wall.
Of the children were scared, one ran over to his parents, one had his hands over his ears and two brothers were huddled together.
But the majority of kids were not scared at all, as they were focused on the stage.
One CSUB student who was in the audience was even a little afraid.
“I thought it was a good play and [the actors] portrayed children well and believab[ly],” CSUB student Alex Traynham said. “I was scared a couple of times, especially by the loud noises”.
Fellow CSUB student Kendle Bullman had a similar reaction.
“I did freak out a few times, but it [the play] was cute,” Bullman said. “If I could bring my nephew, I would.” Unfortunately, she wouldn’t be able to, as the play’s run was ending shortly.
The play, which was directed by CSUB theater professor Kamala Kruszka, is near and dear to her heart.
“I lead a tour show every year and I always have something that appeals to little kids,” Kruszka said. “I always try to put on a show upper-elementary kids could like.”
Kruszka notes that the play might be a little scary for lower-level elementary kids (the kids that were mentioned earlier in the review), so it might not be appropriate for them.
Kruszka describes directing the play as a pleasure, because “the cast makes the show fun,” referring to them as “really talented” and “willing to be playful.”
Kruszka describes children’s theater as a joy, saying that, “In today’s world there is nothing like live theater.”
“It’s important to know it’s vital to introduce children to theater when they’re young,” Kruszka said. “It’s fun for families to find out that there’s things to do together.”
Although the play will be put on mostly at schools in the Kern County area for the rest of the week, “The Imaginators” final tour stop will be at the CSUB campus Arena Theatre on April 23 at 10 a.m.
The play’s final stop will be where the tour first began.
For more information or reservations call 661-654-3150.