By Katherine Burgess, Staff Writer
The Union University Players will bring an American legend to life in the upcoming children’s play “The Saga of Pecos Bill (or How Cowboying Really Got Started).”
The legend of the first cowboy, “The Saga,” follows Pecos Bill from his early childhood when he was raised by coyotes through his exploits as he lassos a tornado, digs the Grand Canyon, creates the Great Salt Lake and falls in love with the catfish-riding Slue-Foot Sue.
“Pecos Bill is one of the collection of American tall tales, right up there with Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed, and Pecos Bill is kind of the first cowboy of America,” said Kevin Moss, sophomore computer science major who plays Pecos Bill. “(This play) is a little bit different than a normal play, because on one hand it’s for a children’s show, so you want more stereotyped characters … but at the same time you’re stepping into the roles of an incredibly famous tall tale in America, and there is that pressure to do it justice.”
Union has presented a children’s show annually for more than 35 years. As in the past, the theatre department will present the show to children visiting Union from throughout Jackson as well as to Union students and community members.
David Burke, professor and director of theatre, said he hoped to introduce children to great stories from America’s past.
“So many kids now in public schools and private schools no longer know anything about these sort of American legends,” Burke said. “They don’t know anything about fairy tales; their parents have just not read to them these stories, and so they’re foreign to them, and so we’re excited about the opportunity of being able to present this great American legend…
“(Children today) don’t have a connection with their past. … We’ve lost that connection somehow; we need to go back and figure out that connection. Fairy tales have great moral messages to sort of build a foundation for us. … Those are good messages; they’re simple, but they’re necessary.”
“The Saga of Pecos Bill” teaches the simple message of learning to get along with others “to accomplish a bigger picture,” Burke said.
“It takes teamwork, it takes family, it takes relationship,” he said.
Burke said he looked forward to seeing children’s reactions to the play.
“It’s fun to see children responding to humor and to story, because it’s hard for children sometimes to separate reality from fantasy, so they’ll buy into it in a more realistic way,” Burke said.
Moss also said he looks forward to audience participation.
“We’re out in the audience a bunch,” Moss said. “We just have a lot of things we’ll get the kids involved with.
“It is for them, and so we want them to interact and enjoy it, too, so that’s kind of the purpose of the play.”
Though performed primarily for a younger audience, the play also appeals to older audiences, Burke said.
“The Saga of Pecos Bill” begins at 10 a.m. May 7, 8 and 10 and at 7 p.m. on May 8 in the G. M. Savage Memorial Chapel. The cost is $2 per ticket.