Though Shel Silverstein was an author best known for his children's books, fans of his poetry, music, cartoons or plays may also know of the late artist's wit, intellect and dark side.
Local theater group Things Unseen hopes to bring the lesser-known facets of Silverstein to life this weekend with the performance of a collection of his dark, comedic one-act plays in an "An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein." The show will feature 10 scenes sure to surprise those who know Silverstein from "Where the Sidewalk Ends."
"I think everyone is going to be quite shocked with this," said Jody Hesley, a production manager for Things Unseen and an actor in the show. "It's certainly an adult show. We use every word in the book."
Mirror photos by Patrick?Waksmunski
Actors in the skit “Garbage Bags” from “An Adult Evening of?Shel Silverstein” are (from left) Georgia Marlin, Megan Helbig, Lois Kaneshiki and Elizabeth Happeny. The scene is derived from the poem “Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out” from Silverstein’s children’s book, “Falling Up.”
Jordan Heitkamp and Lois Kaneshiki perform the skit “No Soliciting.”
The show touches sensitive subjects, but also involves the risque and the ridiculous. Audience members will see living piles of garbage and be reminded of the multiple uses of the word "duck."
Though it certainly won't be a G-rated evening, stage manager Haley Hawk said Silverstein's "off-the-wall" style of writing still shines through the work.
"Growing up, I know my teachers always read us his poems and they were very out there," Hawk of Hollidaysburg said. "I think that even though this is adult material, it very much stays true to the quirkiness and offbeat-ness of him."
If you go
What: "An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein," presented by Things Unseen
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 2 to 4
Where: The Church in the Middle of the Block, 217 Fifth Ave., Altoona
Details: Tickets are $12 and $10 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at Thompson's Pharmacy locations or at the door.
Director Michael Manfred of Altoona will be making his debut with Things Unseen with the production. He said what drew him to the work was its intelligence, interplay with words and simple plots that become extremely complex. The play's combination of written jokes and physical humor cater to a young audience, Manfred said, and should be as fun to watch as they are for the actors to act out.
"With the casting, I tried to give people different things to play," he said. "So if you see someone in act one in one piece and then in act two in another piece, they're usually playing something that is wildly different than the last person they played. It's a nice change for the actors, I think. ... I've seen fun on that stage every single time that we've done it. Everyone seems to be having a good time. Hopefully, the audience will feel the same."
Tom Ekstrand, a pastor at the First Lutheran Church in Altoona and also an actor in the show, said he really enjoys playing his characters, but the show certainly isn't something he'd "invite the Sunday school children to."
"It gives me an opportunity to show that I'm human, I guess," Ekstrand, of Altoona, said.
Valerie Stratton, a production manager for the show and co-founder of Things Unseen, added that the reason they chose to do this show was because they found it both light and entertaining.
"But we also wanted to do something with an edge because that's how we're different from some of the other theater groups," she said. "It's not something to do in the Mishler, for example. It's something that we think is more of an intimate kind of show. ... It appealed to us as a group, and the people we're trying to get to."
Having been involved previously with many other local theater production companies, Manfred said he was drawn to work with Things Unseen because of the intimate nature of their productions and their ability to do a lot with very little.
"I'd seen the shows that they had already put on, and I was immensely impressed." Manfred said. "They were doing things with so little budget that looked incredibly theatrical. ... Whatever they needed to do to make that show happen happened on that stage. I'd like to feel I bring the same basic drive to any show that I do."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.