New director brings high energy to Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat

Sally (played by Rebecca Haas) and her brother (played by Chris Phillips) contemplate tea with the Cat in the Hat (played by Zak Bacon).

Cell phones are on silent mode. The audience is seated, and now for the laughing, clapping and humming. Radford University School of Dance and Theatre presents “Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat” Dec. 5 at the Pridemore Playhouse.

Prepare for an energetic show filled with lots of action by 11 actors who constantly run, jump, swing, slide, ride bikes, and do cartwheels.

“The Cat brings lots of mischief into the household and we’ve explored every possible way to be mischievous in the Pridemore Playhouse,” said Robyn Berg, assistant professor of theatre, about her Radford University directorial debut.

Though she has directed all genres of theatre – drama (Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”), comedy (Ken Ludwig’s “Leading Ladies”), musicals (“Shrek,” which won an American College Theatre Festival Excellence in Directing Award), she is no stranger to children’s theatre productions – both for children and with children. She was a teaching artist for the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the first organization to participate in the Disney Musicals in the Schools Program, outside of New York City. For this program, she co-directed “The Jungle Book” and “The Aristocrats,” while helping an elementary school team of teachers learn how to produce a musical, so they could do it on their own the following year.

“I’ve even directed work by children – for the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival,” she said. “Children have such an imaginative spirit and I love tapping into that energy!”

And “Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat” is a play that requires a lot of energy. The text utilizes the same words found in the beloved book, but since reciting those words only takes about 10 minutes, the play requires more. According to Berg, the students involved with the production have found many ways to stay true to the story, but also incorporate physical comedy as well.

This is the story of two bored children, Sally, played by Rebecca Haas and her brother, portrayed by Chris Phillips. They are home alone on a rainy day. They hear a bump and the Cat in the Hat appears. He is full of ideas on how to entertain them, which makes their fish (who Berg describes as a bit of a control freak) unhappy.

“In the stage production, the Cat brings along some kittens to assist him in the madness,” Berg said. “There are a serious of adventures, including the arrival of Thing 1 and Thing 2, who really amp up the fun and leave quite a mess in the process.” And that is enough of a spoiler alert. To find out what happens when their mother returns, see the play.

Zak Bacon plays the Cat, and with this role he must incorporate movement, an air of mystery and keep the energy of the show flowing.

“To get into mind of the Cat in the Hat, I must first embody the physicality of him, which really helps my mind come into play,” he said. “He is long and lengthy, which is something I am not with my whopping 5'7 height. The next step is to tap into the mystery element, while always having my energy up to keep the kids engaged.”

Helping with keeping the liveliness level high are the other members of the cast including Drew Callahan as Voice Over (essentially The Boy grown up and narrating this story from his childhood) and Forrest Goodwin as the Fish. Lexi Cohen is Thing 1 and Tyler Wright is Thing 2, and both are also kittens and part of the ensemble. Tori Unterberger plays Mother, a kitten, and is a member of the ensemble. Rounding out the kittens and ensemble are Amanda Barr, Rayna Johnson and Megan Ward.

“Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat” is onstage Dec. 5 with two shows at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. General Admission is $8, university faculty/staff: $6, RU student’s with ID: Free, Children: $4. Tickets for the Pridemore productions are available at, the week before the event at the Porterfield Box Office or by calling (540) 831-5289. Box Office is open from noon to 6 p.m.

Nov 24, 2015