"Monkey See, Monkey Do": Kids get a taste of opera at BV library
By Billy Stidham
Children learned while monkeying around Thursday as the Opera In The Ozarks presented “Monkey See, Monkey Do,” at the Berryville Public Library.
The free show drew a large crowd of young children and their parents. The show also served as an opportunity for kids to clap with the cast members, have fun and learn along the way. Unlike many famous operas, “Monkey See, Monkey do” is almost entirely in English with a handful of Spanish words for children to learn. Cast members prepared the kids by explaining words like “sombrero,” “bonita” and “dónde,” which were important to the story.
Aside from the performance itself, the program handed out to every audience member included facts about operas and monkeys with accompanying crossword puzzles and word searches for children to explore with their parents at home.
One young audience member, Talon, said “finding the monkeys” was his favorite part of the show.
“When it comes to working with the kids I have to be a lot more animated and involved in the actual performance,” said stage manager Rachel Walrath. “It’s really fun seeing their faces light up for the first time they experience opera.”
Walrath said the cast members are graduate students or recent graduates from music schools across the country.
“It’s a learning opportunity for them as well,” she added.
The cast members send in a video of themselves singing, which gets their foot in the door for an in-person audition that can land them the opportunity to join Opera In The Ozarks.
Walrath said “Monkey See Monkey Do” is a show geared toward children, but the troupe also performs classic operas like “Carmen.”
After the show all the children were invited to ask the cast members questions, get their photos taken and get autographs.
Children participating in Berryville Library’s summer reading program also got stamps in their log books which count toward their reading progress for the summer and can eventually win them toys and prizes for reading and attending special events.
“Having shows like the opera is a good way to attract children to the library,” assistant library director Mary-Esther McNeill said. “Hopefully they learn that the library is a fun place to be and they’ll want to come back,” she added.