Walking like Disney princesses was one of the skills student volunteers from Purdue Theatre had to practice before their debut at Boo At the Zoo’s opening Wednesday night.
“Maybe (the practice) will come in handy sometime in the future,” joked Kristin Walker, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and a four-year member of the theater program.
In preparation for the Boo at the Zoo, an annual program put on by the Columbian Park Zoo, the volunteers were required to attend an hour of rehearsal where they practiced skills involved in portraying children’s characters.
Boo at the Zoo gives kids in the community a safe place to trick-or-treat and participate in other Halloween activities with their parents. However, this is the first year students from Purdue Theatre have been featured. Claudine Laufman, director of the Columbian Park Zoo and its programs, and Joel Ebarb, the theater department chair, were excited to get Purdue Theatre involved.
“We haven’t ever had a direct partnership with the Purdue theater department per se, so Joel and I have forged ahead together,” Laufman said.
However, though this is a new partnership for the department, Laufman said Purdue students, in general, have been volunteering to help with Boo At the Zoo since the event started in the late 1990s.
“Ninety percent of the people out here are Purdue students,” Laufman said.
Now a part of that 90 percent, the Purdue theater students who volunteered all dressed up as fairytale favorites such as Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and the Three Little Pigs. Each story had its own scene along Boo At the Zoo’s popular Enchanted Train Ride.
“(The kids) come by on a train, and they stop here for about five seconds. ... We put on a little scene for them, and then they move onto the next one,” Walker explained.
Walker, featured as Alice from “Alice in Wonderland,” was ready to playact at the tea party scene and expressed just how much she was looking forward to all the mini-performances.
“I don’t ever really entertain children or work with kids, so it’s going to be fun to make them all happy,” Walker said.
Alongside Walker was fellow actor, volunteer and liberal arts student Travis Hodges.
“It’s always cool to get out and do what we do,” said Hodges, dressed in the colorful costume and large hat required for his role as the Mad Hatter. “Any opportunity to perform is a good opportunity, especially if it’s for the kids.”
Walker stressed that this is a great opportunity for the volunteers and for the theater department as a whole.
“We are always trying to put Purdue Theatre more out in the open, because nobody really knows we exist,” Walker said. “So, this was a really good opportunity to do that and show people we interact with the community. ... It’s a great outreach for us.”