By Suzanne Rhodes • Official Kids Mag
Where can you go to turn yourself into a troll, a scarecrow, a fairy or a Mafia gangster? Why, Trike Theatre in Bentonville, of course, where kids learn acting skills through classes and productions like Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz.
“It’s really fun learning how to act,” Lily Gunderberg said. She’s a seventh grader at Haas Hall Academy and has been involved in Trike since third grade. “I was one of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan—I was called Toodle.” Her younger sister, Gracie, and older brother, Connor, 15, were also in the play, which ran in November at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.
Trike offers year-round classes in theater and craft from PreK4 through high school. As Lily explained, “Trike’s helped me learn to communicate better with others and how to work as a member of a team. It’s also helped me with memorization, enunciation and projection.”
Gracie, who’s in fourth grade at ANH Montessori school, also likes working with other kids. “If you were to do a one-man show, which I’ve done before, if you mess up your lines, you’re like, ‘argh!’ and you panic. But if you’re doing a multiple-people show, they try to help you fix something and cover for you.”
Their mom, Devina Gunderberg, appreciates the enthusiasm her children have for theater. “Every kid needs to find something they love. You want them to be passionate about something.” Even her youngest child, Harry, “is all about Trike. He’s in the first grade and has only done a couple of classes. He loves seeing his siblings perform and says, ‘I want to do that too.’”
Lily doesn’t worry about the audience when she’s performing, and she’s been in many productions. “I actually forget. You’re just present in the moment on stage.” She said she likes the rush of adrenaline.
The girls think their teachers are fun. As Lily put it, “They do a lot of group activities with kids so they get to know each kid—their strengths and weaknesses.” She especially likes the way the teachers “are very inclusive and cooperative. And they teach other kids to be inclusive and cooperative.”
Gracie started taking classes when she was six. Classes for younger kids have names that reflect a theme. Gracie said her first class was “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” and after that, “Paperback Princess” and “Buddy the Elf.” The kids make props, costumes and other creative elements, and perform in little skits.
“Sometimes we’ll do stretches and warmups, like tongue twisters.” Gracie gave an example: “’The big black bug bit a big black bear and the big black bear bled blood.’ Or we’ll play acting games, like Mafia. You take on certain characters. You have to act natural and it’s really hard, but it teaches you how to do that.” She laughed, adding that she enjoyed playing the bad guy.
Chris Tennison is head of Trike Academy. He explained that classes are offered after school on Monday through Thursday and on Saturday mornings from 9:00-1:00. During a typical school semester, “we do two sessions. Right now, we’re in the middle of our Fall 2 session. They’re six-weeks long.”
One thing he said that’s part of the Trike mission is to make kids well rounded. “We give them life skills they need—a growth mind, confidence, strengthening their character. We want them to discover themselves, whether it’s their artist’s voice or their engineer’s voice or their doctor’s voice—we want to help you find that voice, which is why we have some great scholarships available.”
For Lily and Gracie, finding their voice through theater education doesn’t necessarily mean they want to pursue acting careers, though it’s a career path Lily is considering. “But I’m really into art and animation. Or I might do set design and tech.”
Gracie was quick to say, “I want to be a voice actor.” This is the kind that’s behind animated characters, like in Frozen.
Their mom feels confidence is the best thing Trike has done for her kids. “They’re NEVER afraid of doing a speech in front of their class or a group project. They’re very comfortable presenting.” With her girls and boys involved in Trike, “it brings everyone in our family together.”
List of Coming Productions
Go, Dog. Go!
Jan. 19th and 26th
Walton Arts Center
Little TRIKE Theatre
Hurry Up!… and Wait
Feb. 23-March 3