‘Panto’ trying to get a foothold in local theater

    Whatever the story – in this case it’s Snow White – a panto always features audiences yelling at the stage, a man in a dress, flying candy, and what People’s Light and Theater assistant director Samantha Bellomo calls “the messy bit.”

    For hundreds of years, children in England have gotten their first exposure to theater during the holidays at something called a “panto”. It’s a vaudevillian form of theater that is almost completely unknown in America.
    Photo Credit: Mark Garvin.

    Listen:
    [audio: 091127pcpanto.mp3]

    Whatever the story – in this case it’s Snow White – a panto always features audiences yelling at the stage, a man in a dress, flying candy, and what People’s Light and Theater assistant Director Samantha Bellomo calls “the messy bit.”

    Bellomo: Snow White is the messiest messy bit we’ve ever had. In past we’ve had a bedroom destroyed, makeup fights, a huge flower fight.

    University of Pennsylvania professor of theater Cary Mazer says “pantos” have not caught on here because many Americans don’t see it as “Christmasy.”

    Mazer: That type of involvement is alien to what a middlebrow, culturally aspirant parent would want when introducing kids to the performing arts – we’re not used to chaos – it represents everything we’re trying to keep our kids from doing in the theater. That’s where the fun is.

    This is the 6th year People’s Light and Theater has staged a panto. Samantha Bellomo says it has been a training period for both actors and audiences.

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