Local children featured in 'listening to the earth' performance

Try this recipe for a special performance event: Take the leadership of Tandy Beal, a theater arts instructor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Add 40 UC Santa Cruz students. Mix well with 200 young local students, their teachers, and community members. Blend in weeks of schools visits, teaching, and practice. The result? Listening to the Earth, a theater project featuring children and adult performers, which will be served up twice on Friday, March 8, at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the UC Santa Cruz Mainstage Theater.

"This production is about engaging the imaginations of all the students in the show," said Beal, a dancer who cowrote the production with composer Jon Scoville in 1987. Listening to the Earth has been performed in communities throughout the West and in Hawaii. Combining story-telling, music, and dance, it relates the journey of six young children and their encounters with three magical characters. The participation of local students as performers and contributors is a crucial component of Listening to the Earth, and the UC Santa Cruz performance is the culmination of an arts education outreach program involving eight schools. "It's thrilling to have this cross-generational and community project at UCSC. The kids love it," said Beal.

Producing Listening to the Earth was also enriching for Beal's UC Santa Cruz students. Working in teams, they visited participating classes to coach the children, all 12 years of age or younger, for the performance. Although Beal choreographed each dance in the production, her students were encouraged to help the children develop their own interpretations. "Both my students and the young children learned to balance the joy of movement with the discipline of practice," said Beal.

Listening to the Earth also features performers Stephanie Settle, J. J. Porter, Paula Bliss, Rock Lerum, and Saki Sakamoto. The production is partially funded by grants from the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County and the National Endowment for the Arts. Tickets are $9 for adults, $5 for children under 16, and are available in advance from the UCSC Ticket Office. For more information call (831) 459-2159.