“Honk!” celebrates the outcasts of the world

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As part of its Youtheatre series, the Erie Playhouse opened Friday with its performance of “Honk!”

The show features Gannon faculty members like the Rev. Shawn Clerkin, associate professor of theatre and director of theatre, as Drake, the main character’s father, and Alaina Manchester, assistant professor of theatre, as Queenie, a domestic cat.

“Honk!” is modeled after the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale “The Ugly Duckling.” It is a musical that was adapted for the stage as a way to celebrate people’s differences and to share its message of tolerance.

In order to transform this classic tale into a stage performance, the world from the viewpoint of the farm animals has been enhanced.

The show centers on Ugly’s (the ugly duckling) struggle of accepting and learning to love himself. It also teaches the valuable lesson of appreciating everyone for their unique qualities.

Ugly’s journey to loving himself was not an easy task. After being rejected by his father, Ugly runs away from home.

Along the way he meets a variety of characters including a sadistic cat, military geese and a swan.

Through the many struggles he encounters he realizes that the only way to happiness is to accept yourself for who you are.

Clerkin said that he admires the Youtheatre program for encompassing not just productions, but also classes for young people and outreach programs partnering with community organizations.

“It is committed to helping young people appreciate theatre, celebrate their own creative expression, learn collaboration and build confidence,” Clerkin said.

Manchester said she has had the opportunity to work with the youth in Erie through the Erie Playhouse, Shakexperience Gannon and The Young People’s Chorus in Erie.

“As with those programs, the Erie youth in “Honk!” are hard-working, respectful and dedicated to the arts,” Manchester said. “This show benefits from the adult talent on stage but it really is carried by these wonderful student actors.

“It touches on topics of inclusion, discrimination, love, self-acceptance and friendship. The jokes are very multilayered; adults will find certain things funny in a different way than the kids.  The songs are very good and the students are both adorable and impressive.”

Clerkin said that “Honk!” is a very special production that affirms individualism, rejects bullying and celebrates diversity.

“I hope that anyone in the show or who sees the show, who may have been ostracized or denigrated for being different, will see that it is in our differences that we show just how wonderful each person is,” Clerkin said.

“Honk!” continues with performances at 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m.  and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. For more ticket information go to erieplayhouse.org.

MEGAN HAMM

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