Clark has a passion for children’s theater

Published 4:39 pm Monday, December 10, 2007

By By MIKE VOSS;Contributing Editor
Patricia “Patch” Clark can tell plenty of stories about storytelling.
Storytelling is Clark’s life, professionally and personally. Many area residents, especially children, have come to know Clark through her many visits to area schools. When she visits those schools, as she did last week in Beaufort County, she’s not alone. She brings a group of storytellers with her.
Clark serves as the director for East Carolina University’s Storybook Theatre for children. Clark has been at ECU for 13 years. Storybook Theatre has become an integral part of several Washington events — Music in the Streets and Smoke on the Water. On Saturday, Clark brought the troupe to downtown Washington for about two hours of storytelling and singing Christmas carols.
There’s a reason Storybook Theatre makes many appearances in Washington, said Clark, who lives on West Second Street
in Washington.
McKenna Cox, a Washington resident and ECU student, performed during Storybook Theatre’s performance Saturday. Cox isn’t a full-fledged member of the troupe, but she’s got hopes of that happening soon. Cox said being able to work with Clark would be educational and fun.
Cat Gaskin, an ECU student from Advance and a member of the Storybook Theatre troupe, offered insight as to why Storybook Theatre has flourished under Clark’s direction.
When it comes to Storybook Theatre, it is about the children, Clark said.
Children’s theater exposes youngsters to theater arts, music, dancing and reading, she said. Storybook Theatre performances include references to reading.
But Clark knows Storybook Theatre appeals to a wider audience.
Clark believes the reason for Storybook Theatre’s appeal is a simple one: “People love a great story.”
What’s the story behind her being called Patch?
Clark does more than just direct Storybook Theatre.
Clark is coordinator of the theater-education program in the School of Theatre and Dance at East Carolina University. She has appeared in numerous ECU/Loessin Playhouse and ECU/Loessin Summer Theatre productions, including “Grease,” “My Fair Lady,” “Inherit the Wind,” “A Doll’s House,” “Misalliance,” “Our Town,” “The Sound of Music,” “Oklahoma,” “A View from the Bridge,” “Crazy for You,” “Yerma,” “Grapes of Wrath,” “The Time of Your Life” and “Footloose.”
She directed the off-Broadway premiere production of “Katmandu” at the John Houseman Studio Theatre in July 2001, according to an ECU Web site. She is the author of “Intergenerational Arts in the Nursing Home” (Greenwood Press, 1991) and co-author of “Seniors on Stage” (Praeger Press, 1985).
In April, Clark helped stage a production of Chester Freeman’s “Runaway Bear” as part of ECU’s Family Fare series at Wright Auditorium. Freeman is a Belhaven native. The production was the result of the first-ever collaboration between Storybook Theatre and an author, according to Clark, who adapted “Runaway Bear,” co-authored by John E. McGuire, for its stage debut.
Original productions for Storybook Theatre include “Tales From Around The World” and “My Hero … Reaching for the Stars.” The upcoming production of “All Aboard America!” will be produced at Wright Auditorium at ECU on April 11, 2008, and at the Turnage Theater on April 12, 2008.
Clark also taught in public schools in Virginia and at the Virginia Governor’s School for the Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Richmond.
When Clark noticed that several children arrived at the final moments of Storybook Theatre’s scheduled final performance in downtown Washington on Saturday, she did not hesitate to have the troupe do a fourth performance for those children.
That’s a trouper.