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Troupe puts new spin on children's tale

The Albuquerque Children's Theatre will be presenting performances of the classic children's story "Puss in Boots" - delivered with several new twists - this weekend at the Albuquerque Little Theatre.

The tale was adapted by the late Bill Hayden, an award-winning playwright and founder of the theater in 1972.

Sue Ann Gunn, director of the show, explains that Hayden was known for applying contemporary elements to traditional stories.

In his version of "Puss in Boots," to which Gunn has added a prologue in order to pay tribute to the writer, the familiar story of the magical cat that helps her master find wealth is altered.

Here, the cat is actually a princess who has been involved in an unfortunate accident with polluted air which caused her mutation into her feline state of existence. In order to return to normal, she must perform the tale of "Puss in Boots."

Gunn explains that Hayden's environmentally-conscious adaptation was created in the late 1960s, when air pollution was first realized as an ecological problem. Hayden decided that since polluted air was suddenly being cited as the cause of so many problems, why could it not also be the cause of the mutation of a princess?

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The Albuquerque Children's Theatre is a local organization that has been providing a creative outlet to young people for many years. The program consists of about 70 members and is divided into three age groups - pre-school, grade-school and older. The youngest children participate in acting exercises and give performances for families and friends.

All of the Albuquerque Children's Theatre's semi-annual public shows, including "Puss in Boots," are performed by the senior company - cast members range from 11 to about 15 years old.

In addition, the Albuquerque Children's Theatre offers two auditioned, smaller-cast performances a year. The group will be performing one such production, "Winnie the Pooh," in April.

The Albuquerque Children's Theatre, which in the past has had no permanent home, recently merged with the Albuquerque Little Theatre and is now its official youth program.

These changes, Gunn explains, will hopefully bring about better opportunity for the children's program. In the future she hopes to have a larger opportunity to offer free tickets to the community and low- or no-cost memberships to community children who otherwise cannot afford the organization's monthly fees. She also hopes that more adult production staff can be hired as a result of the merge.

Gunn feels that involvement with the Albuquerque Children's Theatre helps benefit children in many ways, regardless of whether they continue to be involved with acting throughout their high school years and beyond.

Basic theater skills, such as public speaking and closely working within a diverse group of peers, are developed in a children's acting environment and apply everywhere in life, Gunn says.

She added that perhaps the most valuable thing about a performance of this nature is that it is a complete, entertaining entity without the need for the large effects and complexities found most everywhere else in the entertainment industry.

There is an incalculable luxury to hearing "a story told simply and clearly," Gunn ruminates. It also is a good way to spend quality time with younger relatives or your own children.

Performances of "Puss in Boots" will be on Thursday and Friday at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 San Pasquale St. SW.

Tickets cost $5 and $3 advance. The show is suitable for all ages and runs about one hour.

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