Kean University Student-Actors Bring Alumna’s A Hairy Situation to Young Audiences

UNION – For her final project in Kean University’s creating plays for children course, in the 2006 fall semester, Lisa Filippone was faced with the challenge of writing an original play that would explain a fact of nature in a creative, reinvented way for young people.

As a double major in early childhood education and theatre, Filippone knew the importance of writing a play that would provide plenty of teachable moments for its intended audiences. Little did she know that her class project, A Hairy Situation, would emerge more than three years later as a fully mounted production of Kean’s department of theatre.

A Hairy Situation tells the story of Tara, an eight-year-old girl who dreams of changing her locks and her looks. It takes her dad’s creative storytelling to explain why people have hair of different colors. After a trip to the land of Tantamount, Tara learns to love herself the way she is and to value her uniqueness, inside and out. A Hairy Situation explores themes of self-acceptance and tolerance of difference for children in grades K–3.

Performances of A Hairy Situation, appropriate for ages 5 to 105, will be held on Wednesday, March 31 at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 3 at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and Wednesday, April 7 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. in Vaughn Eames, Room 118, located at 1000 Morris Ave. in Union, N.J. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for alumni, seniors, students and children. For information or reservations, call 908-737-PLAY (7529).

Following these on-campus performances at Kean, Filippone’s play will appear at more than half a dozen schools in Union and Middlesex counties.

“I love being in A Hairy Situation!” said junior student-performer Jenna Rafferty. “Just knowing that it was written by an alumna who sat in the same classes I’m taking now makes me feel like, ‘Hey, maybe I could do this, too!’”

Playwright Filippone graduated from Kean in May 2009 and currently lives in Perkasie, Pa., working as a preschool teacher and director for the Pineville Child Development Center. Back in Union, a group of 11 Kean students are enrolled in THE 3820 to prepare her play.

“It’s been an experimental learning environment,” said Prof. Rachel Evans. “I wanted to create an ensemble of theatre artists who could have as much ownership of the production process as possible. As a result, for the first time in the department of theatre’s history, two students are co-directing Kean’s Children’s Theatre on Tour.”

Lissette Valentin and Krystle Seit, both majoring in Kean’s theatre K-12 certification program, have been leading their peers in rehearsals to prepare for the production.

“After learning so much about children’s theatre in our classes, it’s exciting to have an opportunity to actually create something real to share with the community around us,” said Seit.
“I’ve worked with children in school settings, and I’ve wanted to give them the experience of live theatre,” added Valentin. “This project brings together two of my passions. I couldn’t be happier.”

In addition to mentoring the student co-directors, Evans has also turned the design portion of the theatre process over to the students in her classroom.

“After collaborating as an ensemble to come up with the basic concepts of our production’s design, the students now work in teams to oversee and implement the scenic, costume and property design,” she said. “Not only are the students seeing the show come together before their very eyes, but they’re adding a valuable credit to their résumés.”

This production continues the department of theatre’s dedication to producing student-written plays. In spring 2008, theatre education major Diana Gundacker wrote A Toast to Friendship that toured and performed for hundreds of students at local elementary schools. Filippone’s A Hairy Situation marks the second such opportunity.

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