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The History Behind Mark Twain’s “The Prince and the Pauper”

April 28, 2017

PP posterThe next play that NBYT will perform—on May 5, 6 and 7—is based upon several real-life facts. The Prince and the Pauper is Mark Twain’s novel about a Tudor prince and a look-alike peasant who change clothes and lives in Sixteenth Century England.

Some of our younger audience members and others new to the story may not realize that while the story is fictional, the young prince most certainly is not. The prince of the title is Edward, son of Henry VIII, who becomes King Edward VI of England. Because Henry’s death occurs in The Prince and the Pauper, the story can be pinpointed to the year 1547. Edward’s sisters are Mary and Elizabeth, who would both also be queens of England. Edward’s cousin, Lady Jane Grey, also appears in the story and later becomes queen herself for a short time—through some complicated history we won’t go into here.

Our history lesson doesn’t stop here though. This production of The Prince and the Pauper, from a script by R. Rex Stephenson, actually takes place in the attic of Mark Twain’s home in the Twentieth Century! Many of us know of Twain’s home in Hartford, but Twain also had a home in Redding, Connecticut, where he lived the final years of his life from 1908 to 1910. Twain named that home Stormfield.

At Stormfield, Twain was frequently visited by a group of neighborhood girls who came to be known as the Angel Fish Club (or the Aquarium Club). Twain encouraged the girls in their artistic pursuits, and he would meet with them and tell stories, attend theater performances, and discuss cultural events. Most of the meetings took place at Stormfield. It was this group of “Angel Fish” who became the basis for this play—in which Twain narrates and the girls and some additional friends (and other adults in the home) act out the story of The Prince and the Pauper.

The visiting author to Twain’s home, Albert Bigelow Paine, was also a real person. Paine was a friend and a writer whom Twain hired to take dictation as Twain recalled the events of his life. The dictated notes would later become, posthumously published, The Autobiography of Mark Twain.

The Prince and the Pauper will be performed at Holmes Elementary School, a community space located at 2150 Stanley Street in New Britain. Performances are Friday, May 5 at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday, May 6, at 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday, May 7 at 2:00 p.m. Ticket prices are $13 for adults and $11 for children, students, and seniors. Tickets may be reserved by calling New Britain Youth Theater at 860-515-8115 or may be purchased online at through Universe tickets.

Calling Aspiring Writers and Directors! NBYT’s Short Play Festival Is Coming!

April 25, 2017

SPF 2017It’s usually not until later in the spring that NBYT announces its productions for the following season—but we’ve got an announcement that we everyone to know about early!

In the fall of 2017, NBYT will hold its first annual (we hope) SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL!

We’ve produced a collection of short plays before (Comic Shorts, April 2013) but this time we’re inviting aspiring playwrights of any age to submit scripts, and we’re inviting aspiring directors age 12 to 18 to direct. Teens are also welcome to be involved as designers, stage managers, or producers. Don’t have any experience as a director or in any of these other roles? Not to worry! Each production will have an NBYT staff member working on it for guidance; in some cases, a staff member may even be directing the production. Auditions for actors will be held in the fall.

DIRECTORS: To submit yourself as a potential director, contact by July 31, 2017. You may submit a specific short play (under 20 pages) which you’d like to direct, or you may choose to be assigned to a play.

DESIGNERS, STAGE MANAGERS, and PRODUCERS: To submit yourself for one of these roles, also contact by July 31, 2017. You may let us know if there’s a specific play you’d like to work on, or you may be assigned to a play.

PLAYWRIGHTS: Submit your scripts to or by hand to Executive and Artistic Director Darren Farrington by July 31, 2017.

To be considered for production, all play submissions must follow these guidelines:

  1. Plays may be written by one or more people, but all contributing writers’ names must be credited.
  2. No person may submit more than three scripts for consideration.
  3. Plays may be original works or adaptations. Adaptations must be based on works in the public domain or permission of the author of the underlying work must be obtained and proven.
  4. Plays must be no more than twenty (20) pages and must be typed in 12-point size of a standard font with one-inch margins on all sides of each page. A character list must be included at the beginning of the play, along with any notes on possible double casting and the setting. Pages must be numbered. There is no minimum length for submissions.
  5. Plays must be suitable for either all ages or middle school age and up.
  6. Plays submitted by email must be submitted in Microsoft Word or PDF formats.
  7. Plays must be able to be produced with minimal design elements and no required special effects.
  8. Playwrights must agree to license plays for production by New Britain Youth Theater for up to four (4) performances. No compensation will be paid to playwrights.
  9. If a play cannot be considered for any reason, NBYT will notify writers as soon as possible. If a problem is easily fixable and the play otherwise has merit, writers may be asked for revisions.
  10. Early submissions (before July 31) are permitted and encouraged.

Questions may be directed to NBYT Executive and Artistic Director Darren Farrington at


In Rehearsal with “The Prince and the Pauper”

April 21, 2017

We’ve gotten a few rehearsal photos from Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, and they look great! There are so many costume pieces, props, and set dressing pieces in the play, that they cast has been working with them for a few weeks already!

The Mark Twain classic with a theatrical twist is NBYT’s next production on stage. In the play, when a group of neighborhood girls and boys visit Twain at home, he narrates and passes out parts, and the children act out his story of the Tudor prince and a look-alike peasant who change clothes and lives in sixteenth century England. Happening alongside this action, Twain meets with a writer who he had selected to take dictation as Twain recalls the events of his life for his autobiography.

The Prince and the Pauper stars twenty-three children ages 8 through 15 from throughout Connecticut, and it is appropriate for audiences of all ages. Local actor Johnny Peifer, known for his work at New Britain’s Hole in the Wall Theater, stars as Mark Twain. The performance is directed by Rae Johnson, and a crew of three teenagers provide assistance backstage.

The Prince and the Pauper will be performed at Holmes Elementary School, a community space located at 2150 Stanley Street in New Britain. Performances are Friday, May 5 at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday, May 6, at 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday, May 7 at 2:00 p.m. Ticket prices are $13 for adults and $11 for children, students, and seniors. Tickets may be reserved by calling New Britain Youth Theater at 860-515-8115 or may be purchased online at through Universe tickets.

“Off the Air”

April 12, 2017

Last night—April 11, 2017—NBYT’s Homeschool Repertory Players performed their latest production—set on April 11, 1939. The show combined actual radio scripts from the 1930s and 40s with an original story about a not-so-ordinary day at a radio station (which doesn’t survive the transition to television), and the young actors in the NBYT program all contributed to that original story and the creation of their individual characters.

Photos below are from the final dress rehearsal of the program, with one photo from NBYT’s homeschool class in music.

NBYT’s homeschool enrichment program in theater is held for two ten-week sessions each year beginning in September and January. For the past year, homeschool classes in music and improv have also been offered. More information on the programs is available at the company’s website at, by emailing, or by calling 860-515-8115.

Extra, Extra, Where Art Thou?

April 10, 2017

rj-logo-2New Britain Youth Theater is casting extras (ages 10 to 20) to perform in its June production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Extras will appear in several scenes as citizens of Verona (ours is set in 1967 in the Summer of Love), partygoers, servants to the Capulets, and friends of the Montagues. Extras will have a few spoken group lines, and will also assist with scene changes.

Shakespeare’s most popularly read and performed tragedy tells the story of two star-crossed lovers, the age-old feud between their families, and the effect that their relationship has on friends and family alike. The NBYT production will be set in 1967 in recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of the “Summer of Love,” and it will be inspired by the popular culture, counter-culture, and political and social turmoil of that time. Popular music that was recorded, released, or charted in 1967 will underscore the production.

Actors interested should email by May 1, although no audition is required. The participation fee for extras will be just $20 to help cover the cost of scripts and costumes. Extras will not be needed for rehearsals until after Memorial Day, but costume fittings may required earlier in May. Extras will also be invited to watch run-through rehearsals of acts beginning late in April. Rehearsals will be on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Performances are June 22, 23 and 25 outdoors at the New Britain Museum of American Art, and June 24 at the Berlin Congregational Church. All performances will be free to attend.



Improve Your Grades with Theater

April 1, 2017

Education logoNew Britain Youth Theater is offering a one-time arts in education class in connection with a graduating senior from R.J. Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts. The class will show students ages 9 to 12 how using theater in the classroom can improve their understanding of classroom subjects—and their grades!

Integrating theater into education means taking theatrical experiences and bringing them into the classroom for a more interesting learning experience. This class is for students who may struggle with sitting all day at a desk and then being tested on things that they’ve supposedly learned from a book. Some children just don’t obtain information best in this way—they learn by standing, moving, and engaging in fun (yet still educational) activities. The class will focus on fourth and fifth-grade lessons in science and history, but the methods learned can be transferred to any subject and grade level.

Classroom experiences over the past few years have proven the value of integrating arts in education. In one school district, “thousands of schoolchildren showed an ‘astonishing’ jump in test scores after their teachers used the arts in reading lessons. In a pilot program involving 3,000 third- and fourth-graders, test scores improved at triple the rate of similar students using the standard curricula.”*

Day and time: Saturdays, 1:00 – 2:30 pm
Duration and dates: Six weeks (April 8, 22, 29, May 6, 13, 20)
Location: NBYT at the Berlin YMCA, 362 Main Street, Berlin
Cost: $15 participation fee

The class will be led by Jasmine Fedele, a seven-year participant in NBYT programs as both an actor and backstage volunteer, and will be supervised by Executive and Artistic Director Darren Farrington.

* “Arts education program boosts reading scores.” The San Diego Union-Tribune, February 9, 2012.

Try Some New “Shorts” This Summer!

March 14, 2017

Shorts logoIn addition to our four-week summer musical program, NBYT is offering four new one-week programs this summer! Each will end with a short share performance!

Write, Create, Action!
June 26-30, ages 5-10
Children will write their own adaptations of well-known fairy tales, folk tales, and fables. They’ll focus on learning and implementing parts of a story, using a storyboard and tableaux (stage pictures), and creating complete characters with unique voices and movement. The program will end with a short share performance of original plays!

Creating and Performing with Puppets!
July 3- 7 (except July 4). ages 8-14
Children and teens will create sock puppets—each with their own unique personality—and will learn basic puppetry skills to move and voice them their creations. The actors will perform short scripts at the end of the week in a short share performance!

Bringing Books to Life!
July 10-14, ages 5-10
Using well-loved books, children will work creatively to bring the books to life—from breaking the story down into parts, to understanding what each character wants and that character’s obstacles, and creating unique voices and movement for each character. At the end of the week, the actors will perform their stories in a share performance!

Musical Theater Moves!
July 17-21, ages 8-14
Using songs from Broadway musicals, children and teens will take the roles of characters from the song—with a focus on understanding the character’s backstory and objective, and creating unique voices and movement for each character. They’ll also help to choreograph a dance and movement piece to tell the story of their character through the song. The program will end with a short share performance!

Days:  Mondays – Fridays (except July 4)
Times:  10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location:  NBYT Studio Theater at the Berlin YMCA, 362 Main Street, Berlin
Cost:  $100 for each week; $80 for “Puppets” for July 4 week

For a Registration Form to complete and mail, please click here. For more information, please email or call  860-515-8115.