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Take Note Troupe teens put poetry in action

'Poetic License' plays Friday and Saturday in Auburn
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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A group of teens is blowing the notion that poetry is boring out of the water.

Take Note Troupe, based in Loomis, presents “Poetic License” Friday and Saturday at the State Theater. The play centers on Ralphie, a middle-schooler with a difficult homework assignment. Not un-derstanding or appreciating the poetry he must read, Ralphie is visited by a series of muses who teach him about poetry, from classics to contemporary pieces.

“People are forgetting all the written things that man accomplished in the past,” said actor Bjoern Oberth, 17, of Lincoln. “I think this show helps to reawaken an appreciation for poetry and how difficult it is to write, and how meaningful and touching it can be.”

The poems are recited and acted out by the students, who have been memorizing and rehearsing since October. Selections range from Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe creations to newer poems from writers such as Paul Fleischman, who wrote a selection of poems intended for two voices that provided the inspiration for “Poetic License.”

The nonprofit teen theater company is headed by LaRee Florence. In 2003, her daughter Aurora expressed an interest in the performing arts. They started learning and performing William Shakespeare’s plays, and through that got involved with the National Shakespeare Competition. Today, Aurora is touring the country as the lead in Broadway National Tour’s “My Fair Lady.”

A backyard production of “The Tempest” led to what has become a summer tradition: Take Note Troupe’s Shakespeare in the Park series. The service-oriented group offers the free performances in Folsom – this year’s young actors will present “The Tempest.” 

Take Note Troupe is an afterschool program for high-schoolers, who come to Loomis from all over Placer County and as far away as Rancho Cordova and Elk Grove. The students take classes about theater performance and theory, and students may also audition for TNT shows. The troupe performs educational shows – “Poetic License,” “The Melodies and Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder” and “Shakespeare 101” – at schools and public venues, along with the summer Shakespeare.

Florence likens the TNT experience to that of an athlete training for a big game. That person puts in hours and hours of training, and while a medal at a competition is nice, the real payoff is in the physical health and stamina built up during training.

“We really are process-heavy,” Florence said. “We really value what the kids take away from their experience.”

And there’s no doubt that the actors have learned a lot about poetry through “Poetic License,” which was written by Florence and TNT graduates.

McKenzie Little, 18, of Auburn, is an ensemble member in the play. While the production has been performed by TNT before, this is her first time in the show.

“It’s a great drama group focused on helping community and putting on plays, and learning how to interact in a positive way with the community and better the world,” Little said.

Florence’s 16-year-old son, Truman, plays Ralphie in one of the show’s casts (there are two casts due to the large number of teens – more than 30 – involved with the production). Poetry, he said, is becoming a lost form of communication, and it’s important to present it to children and the public through a production like “Poetic License.”

“By the time the next generation comes around, they’ll be so into electronics and this and that and the latest TV show and who knows what else, that we’re starting to lose sight of some of the more important things,” he said.

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at krissik@goldcountrymedia.com.

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“Poetic License”
When: 4 and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, and Saturday, Feb. 25
Where: State Theater, 985 Lincoln Way, Auburn
Tickets: $8 in advance; $10 at the door
Info: Call (916) 955-2909 for tickets; visit www.takenotetroupe.org to learn more about the company