Imagine That! brings folk tales to life at the Academy

Shelley Bishop (as an evil stepmother) is being, well not very nice, to a young girl played by Maggie Newstead in a scene from Imagine That! a play to be staged at the Arcadia Academy Theatre from Thursday-Saturday, May 11-13, beginning at 7 p.m. each evening.

Imagine That! Folktales from Around the World is a play by Lesterville resident Sharon Bebout Carr, who also directs the production.

The play will be staged by the Arcadia Valley Theatre Guild on three nights, May 11-13, at the Arcadia Academy Theatre.

Carr, a retired college professor, wrote the play some five years ago while teaching at Bluefield State College in West Virginia and it was written with a specific purpose in mind.

“We had a hard time in West Virginia in getting an audience,” she explained. “A lot of our audiences were first-time theater-goers. They had never seen any kind of live theater, so anything we could think of that might catch their interest, we would try.

“We just wanted to do something that would appeal to children. With folk tales there is an oral tradition and a lot of appeal to children and to imagination. A folk tale is a story passed down orally so it really doesn’t belong to any one person.

“The first piece in the show is called “The Magic Orange Tree” and it involves an evil stepmother and a young girl who eventually triumphs. It can be compared to “Cinderella” and to all kinds of stories that have the same key elements across cultures.”

Bebout has been a playwright for some time.  Her first play was a study of coal-mining families in a community and is called Walking on My Knees.

Imagine That!, she said, is really a kind of writing that is more like an adaptation. And though the themes are universal, she drew from folk tales from countries around the globe.

Not surprisingly, the staging of stories is different than the staging of a conventional play.

For instance, all cast members play multiple parts and they are all on the stage all of the time. Costume changes are done on the fly and on the stage and props are minimal - you are expected to use your imagination.

However, Carr said the tone leans more to the comic than the dramatic.

“The challenge is, with a cast of nine people and a stage this size,  I’ve chosen to keep the entire cast on stage the entire time,” she said. “That is the biggest challenge.  We had to figure out how to make costume changes with each piece and keep the flow of the play going.”

Carr’s doctorate is what she calls a “hybrid of anthropology and theater,” but for most of her career she has been  a Professor of Performance.

She grew up in Western Kentucky and studied at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

“I taught at SEMO for a whole bunch of years,” she said.  “Then we went to West Virginia.  When we decided to move back to Missouri, this was our (she and her husband) favorite playground.

“I have to tell you this because it is the most important thing in the world to me.  I have taught at Indiana State in Terre Haute, and at SEMO in Cape Girardeau, at Bluefield State College in Bluefield, West Virginia – I’ve lived in a lot of different places and done theater in a lot of different places – and this community is the most supportive community I’ve ever been in. And that is the truth.

“They really do support what their neighbors are doing.  They come in (to a performance) and they are knowledgeable about it. They come in and try things people find scary.  I don’t have to hit anybody over the head with a stick here (laughs) to get them interested.

“It isn’t isolated to theater.  All the arts are embraced here – music and art and people are curious about it.  I think they have been exposed to it enough that it does not feel alien.”

This interview was conducted on the first night the cast was practicing “off-book.” The actors ranged from 10 years old to 60ish.  When Carr is asked how the production is doing, she looks to Lily Pursley who says, “It is coming along.”

“No matter how stressful it gets,” the playwright said, “these kids can make me laugh and that is an important thing.”

For tickets or more information call 573-546-4249


Ensemble Cast for 


Brick Autry

Shelley Bishop

Wren Blount

Stone Gill

John Jones

Maggie Newstead

Dana Pursley

Lily Pursley

Mason Sutton


Director:  Sharon Bebout Carr

Assistant Director:  Shannon Blount

Costumes:  Shannon Blount

Set Design:  Sharon Bebout Carr 

            and Shannon Blount

Stage Manager:  Allison Gill

Stage Assistant:  Cate Newstead

Spotlights:  Jesse Wren 

                  and Holly Martin Huffman

Sound Design:  Shannon Blount, 

                 Greg Gill, Allison Gill

Sound:  Taylor Asberry


Act I

The Magic Orange Tree

The Donkey Driver and the Thief

The Story of King Frost

Tug of War

Act II

The Woman who Flummoxed the Fairies

The Heron and the Hummingbird

The Two Old Women’s Bet

Tiger’s Whisker