ROBERT FULGHUM’S ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTENScript Created by: Ernest Zulia
Based on the Essays of Robert Fulghum
Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players
Director – Becki Esch
Assistant Director—Amanda Parkhurst
Set Build—Mik Brown
Sound Design—Becki Esch
Costumes and Props—Becki Esch
Lighting Design—Amber Winnett
Reviewed Performance: 3/16/2019
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I had never heard of the stories of Robert Fulghum prior to seeing this production. I was unsure of what to expect. Was it going to be a musical with adults portraying children? Was it going to be one cohesive story? I had no idea going in that I was going to be given an opportunity to think on the things that exemplify human nature and give insight to some of the most touching and thought-provoking stories. By the time I left the theatre, I was pondering my very existence, and left with feelings of existentialism and wondering what the meaning of life might be-quite deep thoughts for a play with “Kindergarten” in the title. However, I caution you, do not go expecting a musical. This version has omitted the musical material in favor of straight monologues, scenes, and short vignettes.
Director Becki Esch brought together a small, but talented ensemble. They were very warm and nurturing, and really captured the purity of youth and adolescence. The play was staged with great simplicity. It was enjoyable to see the action take place in a large Kindergarten style classroom with the primary school chalkboard as the backdrop for the story. Because the set was so simple, it allowed the focus to be on the characters and their relationship in the story. If the scenic designs and sets had been any more, than, it would have taken away from the story and the journeys of each character in the story. I especially enjoyed being able to get “up close and personal” with the ensemble of characters, and to really experience each story that was presented.
Sound was also designed by Becki Esch. I enjoyed the wide variety of music that was woven into the production (as scene transition music) and the interesting selections during the intermission. Piano renditions of familiar movie scores (“The Godfather” and “Forrest Gump”) and instrumental favorites of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. The music really created a pleasant atmosphere, and each selection allowed the audience to really reflect on the message and theme of each vignette.
In keeping with the overall simplicity of what was seen on stage with the scenic design, lighting (designed by Amber Winnett) and costumes (designed by Becki Esch) were also very modest. Lighting was very dramatic (simple spotlights) and complimented the serious themes of each monologue and vignette. Costumes projected a very youthful image. I especially enjoyed each actors pair of Converse-very reminiscent of children in school. Each actor wore primary colors that really symbolized their youth and innocence. It was enjoyable to see their depiction of each character, and the costumes were very adaptable to a variety of characters and personalities.
Not only did I get I get to see an enjoyable production, but, I also learned a few new things. One of the most memorable vignettes centered around the story of the suave French actor Charles Boyer. I had no idea about the details surrounding his death. I learned that after his true love (his wife, Pat) died from cancer, two days later, Boyer committed suicide because he couldn’t live without her. I was blown away by the details of the story. It really brought one of the themes of the story (the meaning of life) and presented it to audiences in a way that seemed very existential and philosophical.
Angela Burkey brought some wonderfully humorous moments in each vignette. Ms. Burkey has great enthusiasm on stage, and brings energy and honesty to each role that she portrays. Throughout the production, Ms. Burkey has fantastic facial expressions, and brought honesty through her performance. Highlights of Ms. Burkey’s performance included a devoted wife of sixty-seven years, and the love and affection she had for her husband, who was suffering from memory loss. It was a very touching, and honest performance.
Shannon Maddox was another standout in the small ensemble. Mr. Maddox did a phenomenal job of carrying difficult material (Charles Boyer). Mr. Maddox was very intimate with the audience, and was also very versatile in his portrayal of characters. He captured the childlike innocence of many of the characters and vignettes, and also was able to convey some of the more mature themes with ease.
Opening weekend jitters more than likely plagued the cast, with small amounts of stumbling over lines of dialogue-especially for such a dialogue driven show. However, I am very confident that as the show gets further into its production run, the cast will certainly feel more comfortable with the dialogue, and on stage. It is often difficult for a small ensemble to carry the weight of the entire show on stage, but I am certain that this talented group of actors will overcome any problems during the production.
Overall, the production had its enjoyable moments. The attention to detail was evident throughout the production. If you are looking for a production that will give you some heartfelt and lovely moments, look no further. Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten will not disappoint. However, I caution you, it has some mature themes and language that might not be appropriate for younger audiences.
Plays through March 31st.
Theatre at the Cleburne Conference Center
1501 W. Henderson Street
Cleburne, Texas 76033
Tickets prices are as follows:
Adult – $15
Seniors/Students – $12
March 22, 23 and 29 at 7:30 pm
March 24, 30, 31 at 2:30 pm
For information, or to purchase tickets:
Visit: http://buy.ticketstothecity.com or call: 682-317-3644