The Young Ones save the planet in Sum’s latest Theatre in the Park

The sun is too hot. The land is too dry. It’s up to the Young Ones to save the world.

Sum Theatre is heading back out into the park to continue a summer tradition and this time, it’s tackling climate change with a tale of bravery and resilience and the ability of young people to change the world.  The Young Ones was written by Yvette Nolan and adapted by the Sum Theatre Ensemble. It explores the responsibility we all share to protect the planet.

Mara Teare plays “The Young One” in Sum Theatre’s Theatre in the Park. (Studio D)

The Young One, played by Saskatoon born actress Mara Teare lives in a futuristic world that has been turned into a desert by waste and pollution. She is visited by a bear and told she must head out on a quest to save her land. Teare is excited about her Theatre in the Park debut.

“This experience is going to be magical, it’s a fun show that invites audiences in with puppetry and music,” says Teare. “It’s going to be wonderful spend my summer outside bringing the show to families in neighbourhood parks.”

Theatre in the Park is free to all and attracts more than 7,000 people during the month of July to Saskatoon parks. This year, the company is expanding to Regina for a pair of performances. Sum Theatre wants everyone in on the act.

“Every year we try to take a step further in involving the community in our shows,” says co-director Joel Bernbaum.  “At every show we welcome the kids to join us on stage. This year we are going further by having pieces of the set move through the audience during the performance. We want people to engage with the show and really become a piece of the art we’re creating.”

Co-director Joel Bernbaum says this year’s show is bigger, better and packed full of more surprises for families. (Studio D)

The audience participation started early this year as an appeal went out for children to send in drawings of fish that will be part of the performance. Along with a moving original score, audiences will be amazed by incredible set pieces and puppets built by puppet master Jim Drake in partnership with the Saskatoon Public Library.

Inspired by the success of its ASL (American Sign Language) Workshop earlier this Spring, Sum Theatre is not only having interpreters at the show, they are being integrated into the performance.

To follow The Young Ones theme of protecting our planet, the sets and costumes were created entirely with repurposed and recyled materials. Local businesses donated left over construction materials to build the props.

“The giant river is made up of 44 blue bed sheet collected over several trips to Value Village,” says Bernbaum. “We cleaned them out.”

This show does have a message for the audience but both Bernbaum and Teare say it’s not an “informercial” about the environment.

“Rather than a preachy show about climate change, this is a story that shows we can all have a helping hand,” says Teare. Bernbaum agrees, “Education and entertainment don’t have to be separate. We want people to have fun with us and each other and move their hearts at the same time.”

Seven years in, Sum Theatre is proud to now be a destination event for families in the summer. “It’s exceeded my wildest dreams,” says Bernbaum. “People will come up to me and say, ‘My kid is seven and we haven’t missed one show!’ It’s humbling to know that we have become a significant part of children’s lives.”