Keeping an Open Mind for All We Meet: Theater Bug’s ‘Oddly Puddle’

IMG_9491-1The caring and compassionate artists at The Theater Bug – from Artistic Director Cori Anne Laemmel to very young performers – look at the needs, wants, hopes and dreams of children and their families in their programs. Today (Jan. 30) they open Oddly Puddle is from Inner Space, which centers on a non-verbal boy’s world, for a run that ends Feb. 23.

The show is in partnership with The Special Education Advocacy Center (SEAC). The Saturday, Feb. 1 show is free of charge to SEAC families; ticket sales from the Saturday, Feb. 15 performance will benefit SEAC.

Two casts of youngsters ages 3-17 (64 in all) play a small group of neighborhood kids that includes Oddly Puddle, a non-verbal child with characteristics of autism (we hear what he’s thinking through recordings). They explore the fascinating, sometimes frustrating, and ever changing world of Inner Space in a show that celebrates our differences and dreams of building bridges for Oddly Puddles everywhere, according to Laemmel.

“The show is about assumptions we make when we meet people. When we meet people we tend to decide what they can and can’t do,” she says, “what they’re capable of and what their limitations are. (Oddly Puddle) asks us to slow down and not be so quick to make those assumptions.”

Laemmel, who wrote the work, drew heavily from interaction with an autistic child and the child’s family, but she wants the play to be an experience that deals with more than one condition. “Oddly Puddle is not a play about autism,” she explains, “although it was inspired by it. We want families to come and be able to relate to it no matter what their situation.”

Laemmel credits children and their families for making The Theater Bug the success it has become, with sell-out shows among the indications that Nashville is warmly embracing the troupe. “They came and decided that this would be a sweet, loving place where people came to work hard and support each other, and that’s what they do. It’s a very joyous place to spend your time,” she says.

Here’s a preview of the show:

 

IMG_9481Oddly Puddle is from Inner Space runs through Feb. 23 Thursdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. in The Theater Bug (2618 Gallatin Pk.). Tickets ($5 for children 12 and under and $10 for adults) are available at the door and at www.ticketsnashville.com; the company often sells its shows out so advance purchase is recommended. Talk back with performers and the family that inspired Oddly Puddle will occur after the Feb. 8 and Feb. 22 shows. For more information call (615) 423-4626 or visit www.thetheaterbug.org.

*Photos by Robin Dodd Photography courtesy The Theatre Bug.

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About Evans Donnell

Evans Donnell is the chief theater, film and opera critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He wrote reviews and features about theater, opera and classical music for The Tennessean from 2002 to 2011. He was the theater, film and opera critic for ArtNowNashville.com from 2011 to 2012. Donnell has also contributed to The Sondheim Review, Back Stage, The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Banner, The (Bowling Green, Ky.) Daily News and several other publications since beginning his professional journalism career in 1985 with The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat. He was selected as a fellow for the 2004 National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) arts journalism institutes for theater and musical theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2006 and classical music and opera at the Columbia University School of Journalism in 2009. He has also been an actor (member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA), founding and running AthensSouth Theatre from 1996 to 2001 and appearing in Milos Forman's "The People vs Larry Flynt" among other credits. Donnell is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (www.americantheatrecritics.org).