Chip Simmons wants Lake Houston parents to bring their kids to The Charles Bender Performing Arts Center in Humble at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 13.
That’s when the A.D. Players, a professional theater group from Houston, will perform “The Chronicles of Narnia,” the well-known series of books, movies and now an “interactive” stage play.
That’s right, “interactive,” because a couple of lucky Lake Houston kids will get to join the actors on The Bender stage during the second act.
“The first act is a pretty traditional stage experience, just what you’d expect when you go to a play,” said Simmons.
It’s the second act that gets Simmons excited.
– Two lucky kids get to perform in the ’interactive’ play –
“There will be only two actors on stage performing all the roles and we’ll have the sound effects people on stage with the actors while the audience watches them creating all their sound effects,” Simmons said.
Why would A.D. Players show all those “tricks of the trade” usually hidden behind the curtain?
“We’re trying to help kids, and their parents, re-engage their imagination,” Simmons explained. “With all that iPhone screen time, kids and adults, too, have let their imaginations go by the wayside. Our ‘Narnia’ script shows kids how the sound effects artists work with actors in the live scene – as they are happening. Frankly, it’s just like an old-time radio drama.”
And it’s in Scene 2 where two lucky local kids will be invited on stage to participate.
Simmons is the A.D. Players touring director, the guy who, along with the artistic director, selects the plays that will go on tour, schedules the performances and directs the productions.
“I love “The Chronicles of Narnia” because it really follows our mission statement – ‘to produce compelling theater, from a Christian world-view, that engages a diverse audience,’” Simmons said. “The Narnia author, C.S. Lewis, was an atheist who became a Christian and this series of books comes out of his transformation. It’s not preachy, it’s a beautiful story.”
Simmons lives and breathes A.D. Players. Coming from Oregon, he auditioned as an intern, joined their academy and then the resident acting company. He transitioned into directing, although he still manages to try out his acting chops a couple plays a year.
“There won’t be a huge set on The Bender stage,” Simmons said. “We want to engage your imagination. It’s all about letting kids – and their parents – know that we can use our imagination to tell our own story.”
There are seven books to the “Chronicles” and Simmons will be encouraging The Bender audience to “…go forth at the end of the play and read the books we didn’t cover.”
A.D. Players was founded in 1967 by Jeannette Clift George, a Houston native with an extensive background off-Broadway as well as with the New York Shakespeare Company. After performing with Houston’s famous Alley Theatre acting company, George created the A.D. Players, which includes a resident company that performs in its own theater and tours nationally and internationally, as well as a performing arts academy that offers classes to all ages.
They will perform at The Bender, built in 1929 as Charles Bender High School. It was refurbished and refreshed and now is the performing arts center for Humble and the entire Lake Houston area.
“We’ve got quite a lineup coming to The Bender,” said Jennifer Wooden, director of The Bender and the Humble Civic Center and Area. “We’ll host the Emerging Artists Dance Festival on May 4. This festival is a platform for emerging dance artists and we’re especially excited to feature the Bruce Wood Dance Company of Dallas.”
Two of Lake Houston’s favorites will return to The Bender stage, too.
Kenny Neal, who wowed Lake Houston with his Baton Rouge swamp blues, will bring his harmonica to Humble on Friday, June 14, and the fabulous Fab 5 bring their Beatles Tribute Band back to The Bender stage Friday, July 12.
“When folks in Lake Houston are planning a night out, check first to find out what’s going on at The Bender,” Wooden suggested. “You’ll be amazed at the diverse and interesting talent that we’ve lined up.”
For tickets to “The Chronicles of Narnia” or for coming events at The Bender, call 281-446-4140 or visit humblepac.com.