Jennings, Coleman A. Theatre for Young Audiences: 20 Great Plays for Children. St. Martin’s, 1998. ISBN 0-312-18194-9. $35.00. 604 pp. A Reviewed by Nancy Hovasse Harris, Aurand, The Arkansaw Bear. 2+. The Arkansaw Bear invites its audience to share in a young girl’s grief as she comes to accept her grandfather’s death. Confused and sad, young Tish wishes upon a star that she might understand why her Grandpa has to die. Her wish granted, Tish soon meets The World’s Greatest Dancing Bear and his accomplice, The Mime, running from The Ringmaster, who has come to take Bear to his final performance in the center ring. Frightened at the prospect of death and all that he has left undone, Bear tries everything to outwit The Ringmaster. With the help of the wishing star, Tish and her friends delay Bear’s inevitable finale until they meet the young Arkansaw Bear, who agrees to learn the dances and continue Bear’s legacy. With this solution, Bear finds peace and is able to leave this life, knowing he has passed on his gifts and shared his dances. Requiring a cast of six plus recorded voices, this play is very easy to mount. Many productions choose to include a swing on which to fly in Bear, but it is not essential. Music is important and should be planned as an integral part of the piece. The author suggests that Bear should not wear an animal mask or animal makeup, so that the young audience can identify with the human qualities of the character.
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