'Pip-Pip The Dragon' at Howard Community College delivers magic that is out of this world

For Howard County Times

An exciting journey awaits children from the age of 8 to 80+ at the Studio Theatre in the Horowitz Performing Arts Center at HCC, where the Arts Collective is putting its 24th season to bed with a tale designed to fire the imagination of anyone who shares the ride.

“Pip-Pip The Dragon: A Story Of Wishes,” presented by the Arts Collective and the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, is the ninth original play by the Arts Collective, which aims to serve as a “creative cauldron” providing training for artists of all experience levels.

Directed by producing artistic director S. G. Kramer, “Pip-Pip” was conceived in 60 or so scenes to fit the Horowitz Center’s 2018-19 “Wonder” theme.

Student, community and professional actors and creators developed the “devised play” about a loving dragon — and anthropomorphic planets, a witch, fairies, mystical and woodland beasts and the rulers of an earthly kingdom — through rehearsed improv, music and movement, a template that Kramer said has worked beautifully in nine productions.

Enacted by Jamie Barrios, Keith Becraft, Dana Fleischer, Chania Hudson, Daniel Johnston, Alek Kowalczyk, Sarah Luckadoo, Kristen McLean, Angelica Rodriguez, Lexi Wakefield and Sierra Young, the show’s themes focus on friendship, forgiveness and unconditional love.

Story consultants Barrios, Johnston and Jessica Welch have woven the scenes into a lovely children’s story with few holds barred; the fresh tale travels from a child’s bedroom into a storybook, the universe, the woodlands, an earthly kingdom and back again.

The lights — a panorama of lovely visual effects designed by Andrew M. Haag, Jr. — rise on a child’s bedroom designed by Kelli L. Jones and Emma K. McDonnell (their aesthetic and technically savvy set will flow into subsequent scenes like liquid poetry in motion).

Mother (Fleischer) and her child (McLean) start the adventure humming with a bedtime story about a baby dragon called “Pip-Pip.”

Sound designers, Kevin Hill and Austin Sapp will add their creative magic (such as the sound of Pip-Pip’s egg hatching) to colorful lighting, bubbles and stage fog in a wondrous fantasy atmosphere enhanced by Welch’s adorable costume design.

The fanciful characters enacted by Kramer’s cast of 11 include a host of woodland creatures; switching diverse characters and costumes on a dime allows the actors to flex their range in standout performances too numerous to list. There are fairies and nymphs, unicorns, harpies, giants, ogres, trolls, Gollums and dragons.

Young is excellent as Earth Mother, as is Hudson as Pip-Pip, Carrie the Crow and Terry the Turtle. Johnston rocks playing the Witch, Lady Constance (a majestic feline) and the Sun, and Luckadoo delivers a stalwart heroine as Squire Adira.

The morals of the story are wonderful — have faith in yourself and choose love over fear. These are lessons learned in this terrific production.

“Pip-Pip The Dragon: A Story of Wishes” continues through Sunday, June 16, at Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, with shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., with an after-show discussion on Sunday. Tickets cost $8-$15; buy online at howardcc.edu or call 443-518-1500.

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