Super Saturday celebrates 30 years

Published 9:37 am Friday, March 28, 2008

In 1978, a group met in Polk County to discuss how to offer children more chances to participate in and enjoy theater and other cultural experiences.

&dquo;There was an absence of cultural activities for children in Polk County,&dquo; said Joe Wray, one of those at the meeting, &dquo;Nothing programmed specifically for children, and we wanted to provide that ‐ not only chances for kids to perform themselves, but also to see really good theater.&dquo;

The result of that meeting ‐ the first Children&squo;s Theater Festival, known as Super Saturday ‐ was held on March 10, 1979.

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This Saturday, the 30th annual festival will take place, with many of the young people who attended the early Super Saturdays now bringing their own children.

This year&squo;s event features nine performers, offering entertainment ranging from dance to music and storytelling to puppet theater (see schedule, page 6).

The performers have been spotlighted recently in a series of articles in the Bulletin. Information about Pamella O&squo;Connor, a puppeteer who will present &dquo;Vasalisa&dquo; at Super Saturday, is presented below.


Pamella O&squo;Connor calls the story of &dquo;Vasalisa&dquo; the perfect tale. The Russian version of &dquo;Cinderella&dquo; has it all ‐ the pretty heroine, the wicked step-family, good triumphing over evil and, in the end, a lesson is learned.

In the story, the young Vasalisa is given a magic doll by her dying mother. After her father remarries, the girl&squo;s wicked step-mother and step-sisters send her into the woods in search of fire to keep them warm.

The doll guides Vasalisa as she encounters the wicked witch, Baba Yaga, and wins her favor, returning with a flame that becomes the undoing of her step-family. In the process, Vasalisa learns to trust herself.

&dquo;There are two lessons,&dquo; O&squo;Connor says. &dquo;First, we should practice listening to the voice inside us because that&squo;s our fire. And second, mean, jealous, petty people might just get burnt.&dquo;

The middle-aged O&squo;Connor, who wrote, produced and performs the one-woman play, exudes youth with her auburn hair pulled up and wearing a black T-shirt, black overalls and pink Converse high-top tennis shoes. Both the puppeteer and storyteller, she seems like a young girl having fun playing with dolls as she narrates the play, changing her voice for each character.

O&squo;Connor says she researched several versions of the play in coming up with her own interpretation. She designed everything herself, right down to the props, set and rod puppets, which are made of objects that have been found.

Pamella O&squo;Connor has been a professional theatre artist for 28 years. She has produced, directed and performed traditional as well as puppet theatre. Trained as an actor first, she has performed at several regional theatres including Indiana Repertory, Arkansas Repertory, and the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, working with such noted directors as Libby Appel of Oregon Shakespeare and Adrian Hall of the Alley Theatre in Houston.

The direction of her professional life changed in 1984, when she was asked to travel to Europe with Janie Geiser&squo;s Obie and UNIMA (the world puppetry organization) award winning Jottay Theatre. For 6 years she traveled with the troupe throughout the United States and Europe performing original puppet theatre pieces for adult audiences.

In 1996, she moved to Asheville with the sole intent of creating new works for puppet theatre. Her first ventures were family shows: Rapunzel and Vasalisa! The Russian Cinderella. Both of these have become juried selections of the Piccolo Spoleto Theatre Series and continue to tour to schools, libraries and festivals around the country.

O&squo;Connor will present Vasalisa at the Congregational Church Super Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.