The Art of Magic
by Kelly L. Miller
What would you do with a magic paintbrush? One that made everything you painted come to life? Would you paint a cat? A house? Or a big pile of money?
Ben and his sister Megan face that unusual, magical conundrum in Ben and the Magic Paintbrush, Bathsheba Doran’s charming play, inspired by the ancient Chinese folktale “Liang and the Magic Paintbrush, ” receiving its world premiere in SCR’s Theatre for Young Audiences series.
Ben and Megan are orphans, who’ve been left to fend for themselves in the world. Megan earns money posing as a human statue, while her brother Ben draws marvelous portraits of people on the street. One day, his talent catches the eye of the evil Mrs. Crawly, who invites him to join a painting competition at her house. The prize? A paintbrush of his very own.
When Ben arrives, he meets his competition, the great artist Pierre Robelinsky, who tells him they’re vying for a magic paintbrush, with the power to make paintings come to life. Their assignment? To paint a cat. Pierre’s uninspiring picture never moves, but Ben’s painting transforms into a real cat, who twitches. Mrs. Crawly captures Ben and Pierre, forcing Ben to paint mountains of money for her and her greedy husband, Harold, while Pierre cleans their massive house. All hope seems lost until Megan arrives with a plan to save the day—and the three of them embark on a magical journey filled with a purple house, a policeman and a trip to the kingdom of Bohemia.
Ben and the Magic Paintbrush is a funny, modern-day fairytale about art, creativity and the importance of believing that anything is possible. SCR commissioned playwright Bathsheba Doran to write the play in 2008—and it’s the fourth world premiere commission SCR has presented in their Theatre for Young Audience series.
Doran began her career as a writer and performer at Cambridge University, where she studied English Literature. Her other plays include Fifteen Minutes, Odes and Gameshows, The Parents' Evening, The War Play, Feminine Wash and an adaptation for young audiences of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (produced in New York by TheatreworksUSA). She has been produced at the Edinburgh Festival, The Atlantic Theatre in New York City, and The Old Vic Theatre and the Drury Lane in London. Her play The Parent’s Evening is premiering at The Flea Theatre in New York this season and her newest play, Kin, was read as part of SCR’s 2010 Pacific Playwrights Festival.
Stefan Novinski returns to direct Ben and the Magic Paintbrush, his fifth Theatre for Young Audiences production, having previously directed Sideways Stories from Wayside School (2003-04), The Hoboken Chicken Emergency (2004-05), Bunnicula (2005-06) and The Only Child (2006-07). Novinski’s cast for the show includes Gloria Garayua (Megan), Shannon Holt (Mrs. Crawly), Richard Doyle (Harold Crawly, Taxman), Bill Brochtrup (Pierre Robelinsky, Grumpy Man, Cleaning Woman, Prison Guard), and Veralyn Jones (Queen of Bohemia, Old Woman, Policeman).
Rounding out the creative ensemble are the show’s designers: Set Designer Keith Mitchell, Lighting Designer Tom Ruzika, Costume Designer Sara Clement and Sound Designer Kimberly Egan. The design and visual world of the play are inspired by the world of the original Chinese folktale.
Previews for Ben and the Magic Paintbrush begin May 21 on the Julianne Argyros Stage and performances continue through June 6. The Target Family Performance is May 29 and features an earlier curtain time of 11am and lower-priced tickets. With the generous support of foundations and corporations, SCR is proud to continue the tradition of offering free weekday matinee performances to Orange County schoolchildren. For more information on weekday school matinees, contact Janis Morrissette at 714-708-5549. To purchase tickets to Ben and the Magic Paintbrush, contact the box office at 714-708-5555.
Enter to win two tickets to Ben and the Magic Paintbrush on Friday, May 21 from Coast Kids!
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