The Scranton Shakespeare Festival will be introducing a new kind of entertainment this holiday season with a Pantomime production of Snow White and the Seven Scrantonians at our new performance space at the Marketplace at Steamtown from Dec. 15-18 written and directed by Billie Aken-Tyers, an SSF alumna.
In addition to providing a jolly good time to audiences young and old, the show will raise funds to renovate the festival’s new space at the marketplace for more flexible programming.
Ticket buyers will literally be helping with both renovating the space and helping to fund the free professional summer season of musical and plays by Shakespeare. Because Panto, a British tradition, is new to Scranton, we have conducted a Q&A with the playwright, and with Jonathan Stephens, SSF's Managing Director, both of whom hail from the UK.
Help us out. What exactly is panto?
JONATHAN: Pantomimes pop up around the holidays and retell classic fairy tales through farce, song,dance, and slapstick fun! It's a classic tradition that originated in the United Kingdom using a stylizedtheatrical performance rooted in the method of commedia dell'arte. Using comedy along with plenty of glitz and audience participation, pantos welcome all ages for an incredibly accessible evening of encapsulating storytelling.
Do you remember seeing your first panto in the UK?
BILLIE: Every Christmas Our school would take us to see the big pantomime at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. It was a big deal, very expensive and flashy, and always so much fun. The kids would get very excited, and so would the adults. As I got older and started to realise how tongue-in-cheek panto was, I started to appreciate the humor more than anything else.
Panto has always been a part of my life since I can remember - the tradition is so embedded that I can't even recall my first one. It's symbolistic to me of a perfect family night out; there's truly something for everyone. Dazzling colours, hilariously over-the-top characters, sing along songs - a whirlwind of memories to be made!
Billie, tell us about the panto script you are writing & directing for Scranton Shakes!
BILLIE: The key to a good panto is that it feels like it is a part of the community. So, there will be plenty of NEPA specific humor happening. Pantos typically follow a basic fairytale plotline, with catchy pop songs thrown in, and the occasional vaudeville sketch. Lots of color, dancing, singing and silliness abounds. With the occasional tongue in cheek joke for the adults!
Why did SSF decide to introduce this uniquely British theater experience to Scranton?
JONATHAN: We're passionate about accessible storytelling at Scranton Shakes, and always love introducing fun new experiences to NEPA audiences that the whole family can enjoy. Panto provides all of those things! Given the amount of British collaborators (including myself) we've worked with during the life of Scranton Shakes, it was a perfect match for our mission and our know-how! We've wanted to bring a fun new tradition to Scranton and we think everyone is going to love experiencing Snow White and the Seven Scrantonians the Scranton Shakes way.