Within minutes of arriving home from seeing InterAct Story Theatre’s The Hero of Everything at Montgomery College’s Cultural Arts Building, my 5-year-old son insisted we put on our own play in our living room. Part of InterAct Story Theatre’s mission is “We believe that everyone, everywhere can learn and grow through artistic creation and exploration,” and my son’s playacting and imaginative play are proof that they are fulfilling this creed.
The experience of seeing The Hero of Everything is not just a typical theater experience abridged for younger audiences. Instead, it is crafted with this audience in mind, working to engage and accommodate children from the moment you enter the building. There was a craft station set up where attendees could create superhero wrist- and headbands. Members of the cast interacted with the audience before the show, getting ideas for superpowers from the tiny theatergoers. The play’s program notes that they leave the lights on low and keep access to the exits open “for those small children who might need a break from the show.”
The actors begin the show by explaining that they will be pretending to be various characters and that they will change their clothes as the play goes on to reflect this. We adults may take this information as a given, but it is a wise and respectful choice to help ensure the children are prepared and will understand what is happening during the show.
The three actors played an impressive number of parts and were animated, booming, and engaging throughout the performance I attended with my son. Hansin Arvind (Zapper, TV Producer, and Pizzilla), handles with ease a complex role as Zapper, who is at times a superhero and at others a villain. Tierra Burke was captivating as Captain Everything (along with Voytton, Rando Superhero 2, and Stacey). Her facial expressions alone were able to communicate clearly to the audience, and her stage presence, body language, and strong and direct vocal projection were an asset to every scene in which she appeared. Maryanne Henderson was a joy to watch in all of her roles, showing an impressive range playing endearingly geeky (yet strong) Grammar Girl, evil Virus Iris, Rando Superhero 1, Casey, and a short but standout role as Belle Plastique. The cast felt approachable and connected well with the young audience while showcasing their professional acting chops at the same time.
The interactive pieces of the play were a highlight; my son and other children all around us delighted in yelling out “beep, beep!,” our performance’s audience-generated sound effect, on our cue. The plot has a few important messages to convey, but I think the nuances of these may have gone over the head of some of the younger audience members. Some of the monologues in the show went on just a tad longer than might be ideal for the 5- and 6-year-old attention span. The characters are working through being able to accept help, seeing problems as challenges, and showing respect to others. Despite the complexity, the theme of humans (or superhumans) being better together rather than working alone comes through.
The actors and playwright Ali Oliver-Krueger didn’t forget about their older audience members, either. There are several jokes sprinkled throughout the script that purposefully went above the heads of the little ones but elicited guffaws from the caregivers.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the smart, fun, and clever costume design by Denise Young. Young audience members gasped at some of the surprises and superhero changes made possible by the costuming. My son was particularly taken with one part of the set. When I asked him what his favorite parts of the play were, his first answer was, “The screen and the part where there was a computer virus. It was interesting how they used real pictures on the screen!” Kudos to Production Designer/Technical Designer Pete Oliver-Krueger for creating this memorable part of the play.
At the end of the show, Ms. Oliver-Krueger mentioned that InterAct Story Theatre does workshops with schools and other community organizations. I have no doubt that they would be a valuable asset to any learning environment!
Overall this is a delightful way to spend an hour with a young person on a weekend, and my 5-year-old enthusiastically recommends it for ages 5 and up (as does the theater).
Running Time: 55 minutes (there is no intermission but self-breaks are allowed).
The Hero of Everything plays weekends through October 2, 2022, presented by InterAct Story Theatre performing at Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center – 7995 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD. For tickets (adults $13.50, children $10, free for 3 and under), buy them at the door or purchase them online.
Friday, September 30: 11 a.m. & 1 p.m. Field Trip, tickets sold through InterAct directly
Saturday, October 1: 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, October 2: 1:30 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
COVID Safety: Masks are optional at the Cultural Arts Center.
CAST: Tierra Burke, Hansin Arvind, Maryanne Henderson
DESIGN AND CREATIVE TEAM: Ali Oliver-Krueger (Playwright/Director), Pete Oliver-Krueger (Production Design/Technical Director), Denise Young (Costume Design), Chris Campanella (Lighting Design), Ian Claar (Fight Choreographer), Project Trio (Music), Douglas Maryott (Stage Manager), Emily Townsend (Dramaturg), Maryanne Henderson (Fight Captain)