This weekend only: A fashionably funny fairytale

by Ann Fletcher

The annual children’s production at Davidson College this weekend will feature “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” This is the first time since 2005 the Connie Company of the Davidson Community Players and the Davidson College Department of Theatre have featured this classic. The photo above was taken at the 2005 play.

It’s a fashionable retelling of one of history’s greatest yarns.

Davidson Community Players and the Davidson College Department of Theatre will take on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” this weekend.

Melissa Ohlman-Roberge, creative director for the Players, will direct the play about the emperor whose desire to look good overshadowed his interest in leading his people and the two tailors who decide to swindle him.

This is the fifth-consecutive year for Ohlman-Roberge as director, following “Sleeping Beauty,” “Jack and the Bean Stalk,” “Cinderella” and last year’s “Rumplestiltskin.” The collaboration between the theatre troupe and Davidson College is a continuation of the tradition set by Connie Company founder and former Davidson College professor, the late Rupert T. Barber Jr.

“Every year, I try to take Rupert’s adaptation and expand on that,” she said. “My mark has been to add elements of music and dance.”

In some respects, Andersen’s 19th century fable already reflected today’s fashion-obsessed culture, but Barber further expanded contemporary connections by adding political protestors who speak out against the idea of using tax money to fund the emperor’s new wardrobe.

Barber was the college’s first full-time theatre faculty member, serving as professor of theatre from 1963 to 1998. He directed more than 60 productions, and in 1996 founded The Connie Company, the youth programming arm of Davidson Community Players that markedly expanded youth theatre in the area. He adapted this and many other popular fairy tales into stage productions for children before his death in 2006.

Unlike most Department of Theatre productions, the condensed nature of these plays, which require the cast of college students to make a brief, two-week commitment from the first rehearsal to the closing show, opens the possibility of doing performances to non-theatre majors.

More theater news

• The Connie Company will offer two additional children’s productions this season, bundling three shows into a $20 season subscription that includes this production, E.B. White’s “Stuart Little” in April and “School House Rock Live! Jr.” in November.

Youth can hone their own performance skills during Connie Company’s drama classes for grades K-2, 3-5, and middle/high school students later this month at Davidson’s Armour Street Theatre.

• The Davidson Community Players is also launching “Seniors On Stage” classes for ages 50 and up beginning Jan. 31. Courses include a 12-week “Acting on Your Feet: Improv and Storytelling” Mondays from 2 to 3:30 p.m. and “Short Attention Span Theatre,” Thursdays, 2 to 3:30 p.m. For fees and information on classes for all ages, call 704-892-7953, or visit and select “education,” then “classes and camps.”

Want to go?

Davidson Community Players’ Connie Company and Davidson College Department of Theatre will present “The Emperor’s New Clothes” this weekend only, Friday, Jan. 21, at 4:30 and 7 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 22, at 10:30 a.m., 2:30 and 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 23, 2:30 and 4:30 p.m., at Cunningham Theatre Center, Davidson College.

Tickets cost $7 for the show that is recommended for ages 4 years or older.

A season subscription for all three children’s productions is $20.

For tickets, call 704-892-7953 or go online,

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