Nearly 35 years ago, an actress and two friends wanted to expose their children to theater. But where to go and what to see? “Death of a Salesman” and classic Greek tragedies just wouldn’t do, said Pushcart Players founder Ruth Fost.

Now Fost’s children are grown with children of their own. Yet she remains passionate about theater and its benefits for children. Starting with a small group of friends, Pushcart Players out of New Jersey now draws from a professional pool of talent. A couple of names to drop include Jason Alexander, who received his first actor’s union card from Pushcart Players. “Bruce Willis liked to hang around, too,” said Fost.

While Pushcart Players has several productions going on simultaneously in different parts of the country, L/A Arts is bringing “Little Red Riding Hood and Other Stories” to Lewiston. The performance will be at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, April 5, at the Franco-American Heritage Center. Tickets are $7, $5 for seniors and students. Call 782-7228, or log on to www.laarts.org.

Performers will bring tried-and-true tales to life with full sets, costumes and original music. Besides “Little Red Riding Hood,” the approximately hourlong performance without intermission will feature “The Princess and The Pea,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “All’s Well That Ends Well.”

“There is a lot of great theater around here,” said Cheri Donahue, marketing director for L/A Arts. “But there’s not a lot geared toward young kids, and it’s definitely needed.”

Pushcart Players staff and performers will also offer a theater workshop earlier in the morning at the Franco-American Heritage Center, 46 Cedar St. Parents and their children can participate in acting games and exercises and get a firsthand taste of the stage. Preregistration is required, and the cost is $3. Donahue noted that the workshop is designed for parent involvement with their children.

Fost explained that while all of Pushcart Players’ productions are children-oriented, they aren’t written specifically for children.

“Good plays are universal” she said. “In our early years, we chose folk tales. Later on, we moved into history and social studies and tried to bring stories to the stage with music and humor.”

Fost’s original partners for the acting company have long since moved in other directions. One left soon because the financial payoff did not materialize. In 1991, the other colleague left, but Fost remains as artistic director, actress and playwright.

“It’s my passion, my baby,” she said, noting she never envisioned that it would get to be 30-plus years old. “We never had any lofty long-range plans.”

Poetically, the company’s first production was on Avon – Avon Avenue, that is, in Newark, N.J. Actors performed in a school and were overwhelmed by the pleasure and excitement created with the children, said Fost.

Fost sees theater not only as a window into the performing arts, but also as a way to broach social issues and life lessons for children. All of the productions come packaged with study guides for teachers and parents. Actors also offer a question-and-answer session after each performance.


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