All is not well in the land of Floralee. The king, kidnapped, is kept by a viciously vile and wrathfully wicked witch. It's up to the princess to travel to the land of Scalenfell and rescue her father, but she's going to need help. Kids at area schools, libraries and community centers are all pitching in.
"The Inventive Princess of Floralee" is the brainchild of Maggie Rader, Know Theatre of Cincinnati's education director. "I wanted to write a play I would enjoy with a strong, smart female character who has a healthy relationship with her father," says Rader. As an actress who was once a Biology major, her interests started making "a play I would enjoy" look like a great tool for integrated arts education.
The Theatre for Young Audiences Tour performed "The Inventive Princess of Floralee" 40 times last year, including 14 performances at elementary schools. That adds up to about 4,500 kids at performances. Each show features two actors—Blair Godshall and Andrew Ian Adams. Godshall plays the Princess while Adams covers almost every other role, including the king, a dragon, a platypus-saving pirate and a gate that loves to dance. The witch is usually portrayed by a teacher or administrator. As the Princess progresses through her adventure, she runs into problems that the audience helps her solve through the scientific method.
The impact of "The Inventive Princess of Floralee" has been outstanding. Audiences love the play—Rader has received piles of fan mail, including fan art, from the kids who have attended. Beyond that, post-show surveys indicate that 81% of kids who attend are able to explain how to use the scientific method to solve problems. The arts are a powerful vehicle for education, and "The Inventive Princess of Floralee" presents a compelling case for integrating arts into the curriculum. That case is supported by research that suggests students who are exposed to arts education score higher on standardized tests in all subjects.
Even without that incredibly valuable advantage, an experience like "The Inventive Princess of Floralee" would be worth it for the confidence it inspires. As one student put it in a survey, "I was feeling excited because it was more about not being afraid to tell what you like to do." Another said, "My favorite thing was that they talked about math and mixed it with fun." As kids learn about the scientific method, they also learn that they don't have to be ashamed of their enthusiasm for subjects like math and science.
As for the future of Floralee, the plan is to continue expanding their reach. Thanks to a grant from the Charles H. Dater Foundation, the Princess will be reaching more public schools next year. Rader also hints that she has a new work up her sleeve, involving a mashup of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.
To book a performance of "The Princess of Floralee," contact Maggie Rader at MaggieR@knowtheatre.com or find her on Cincy Arts + STEM.