‘Story Walk’

A troupe of young actors will perform stories from around the world in a unique way at an Ocala city park.

Cast members from Community Stages, from left, Zoe Cox, 16, Robert Skipper, 14, Tyler Ruiz, 18, Charlie Overly, 13, Lilly Gonzalez, 16, Trinity Gori, 16, and Caroline Overly, 10, rehearse a scene from one of their folktales at the Chelsea Art Center on East Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala, Fla. on Thursday, March 21, 2024. The City of Ocala Recreation and Parks Department, in partnership with Community Stages, will host ‘Story Walk: A Journey Through the Forest and Around the World’ Saturday, April 13, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Scott Springs Park. The three folktales they will be performing are “Daniel O’Rourke,” “Talk From Africa” and “Baba Yaga.” The youth acting troupe will also be performing their folktales at the Appleton Museum of Art. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2024.

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted March 25, 2024 | By Susan Smiley-Height, susan@magnoliamediaco.com

What could be better than a nice walk in a lovely local park?

Add in young actors offering mini plays around the winding paths and you have “Story Walk: A Journey Through the Forest and Around the World.”

The city of Ocala Recreation & Parks Department, in partnership with Community Stages, will host the unique event April 13 at Scott Springs Park, at 2825 SW 24th Ave., Ocala.

Stories from different parts of the world, including Europe, Africa and Asia, will be performed by the talented troupe of young artists.

“Guests can expect to be captivated by energetic and engaging performances. The diverse performance styles will ignite guests’ imaginations and sense of adventure while immersing them in storytelling from around the world,” noted a news release from the city.

To learn more about the actors, the performance and the group itself, we did a Q&A with Terry LeCompte, founder and director of Community Stages.

What is Community Stages?

Community Stages is a pending nonprofit theater arts organization that provides performing arts training, community creative arts events and family-friendly theater performances on “stages” throughout Marion County.

Committed to the creative development of people of all ages and aspirations, we offer school year skill-building and performance classes in theater arts at the Chelsea Arts Center for learners 5 to 17 years of age.

For adults, we have theater workshops that develop skills in communication, collaboration, leadership, critical thinking, creative problem solving and more. These soft skills cultivated through training in theater arts prove advantageous across various career paths.

Throughout the year we also host community sing-alongs, an arts-career discussion series and provide theater and professional development workshops for community and cultural partners.

Who is involved? 

I co-founded Community Stages with Jim Foster. Our classes are held at the Chelsea Art Center and we work closely with owner Barbara Fife.

Other cultural partners include The Appleton Museum of Art, Fort King National Historical Landmark, The Pearl Project, Ocala Recreation & Parks, the Marion County Library System and The Cornerstone School.

A new organization, we are continuing to build our roster of artists and educators. In the past year, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Greg Doss, Jennifer Foster, Scott Nadenic, Jazmine Whipple, Will Elphingstone, Alexa Blanco, Grace DeClerk, Dylan Kinsey and Desiree Luvall.

Caroline Overly, 10, ties her scarf as she rehearses a folktale with other actors from Community Stages on Thursday, March 21, 2024.  [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2024.

The students involved in “Story Walk” are our ODDBITS!: Trunk & Trek Troupe, which includes Ben Burnette, Zoe Cox, Lilly Gonzalez, Trinity Gori, Caroline Overly, Charlie Overly, Robert Skipper and Tyler Ruiz, and special guest Aubrey Bush.

We also have a small team of volunteers who assist in administrative and production tasks.

How did you decide to do ‘Story Walk’?

“Story Walk” was inspired by Arts in the Open, a theatre company in Denver, Colorado, led by our friend and playwright Patti Murtha.

Patti and I started our careers in Theatre for Young Audiences together in New Jersey more than 20 years ago. We co-directed for a company called the Shoestring Players, whose philosophies greatly shaped who we are as artists today.

When it comes to engaging and impactful storytelling, the magic lays within the tellers of the story. With a handful of engaging actors, a great story and a live audience, we can touch lives, provide entertainment and stir social conscience in all spaces—in a park or in a theater.

What was involved in making it happen?

Community Stages auditioned for a winter performance class for actors ages 12 to 18. We formed a troupe of eight actors called ODDBITS!: Trunk & Trek Troupe. We rehearsed our show “Folklore in Gear” on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Chelsea Art Center.

Sam Jarvis and I kicked around the idea of an outdoor performance of the show and we decided on a route through Scott Springs. Then Sam and her team, thankfully, worked out the logistics with Recreation & Parks.

What can people expect if they attend ‘Story Walk’?

Robert Skipper, 14, puts on his hedgehog nose as he rehearses a scene with other actors with Community Stages on Thursday, March 21, 2024.  [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2024.

We will have two performances, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.  A small audience (about 20 people) will visit three stations along the trail. At two stations, our ODDBITS! troupe will share an international folktale. The eight actors will create everything the story needs using their bodies, faces, and voices. Through one 10-minute tale, they play all the characters, places and things. It’s a blast.

Our stories are comedies from Africa, Ireland and Russia, adapted from traditional folklore by myself and Patti. They are fast paced, full of energy and laughs. One station on the path will feature an ODDBITS! actor who will take the audience on its own imagination journey.

Aubrey Bush will lead the audience through an interactive version of the classic tale “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

What’s next for Community Stages?

There will be a free indoor performance called “Folklore in Gear” at 2 p.m. April 20 at the Appleton Museum of Art.

Community Stages and the Cornerstone School have partnered for two, two-week theater camps for ages 5 to 12. Drama Camp and Little Drama Camp run June 3 to 28. Both camps will have classes in acting, singing and dancing, inspired by the musicals “Mulan” and “The Greatest Showman.” You can learn more at communitystages.org or thecornerstoneschool.org  Our school year classes will resume at Chelsea Art Center in early September.

“Story Walk: A Journey Through the Forest and Around the World” sessions will be available at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on April 13 and will run approximately one-hour. The cost is $5 per family and registration is required. To register, go to ocalafl.gov/recpark or zeffy.com/en-US/ticketing/29d1afed-af3e-4bea-88e7-32d42340ea7a

Cast members from Community Stages, front, from left, Zoe Cox, 16, and Caroline Overly, 10, and back, from left, Lilly Gonzalez, 16, Robert Skipper, 14, Charlie Overly, 13, Tyler Ruiz, 18, and Trinity Gori, 16, rehearse a scene from one of their folktales at the Chelsea Art Center on East Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala, Fla. on Thursday, March 21, 2024. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2024.

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