DECATUR - The thing about performing for children is, you never quite know what they'll do.
Alissa Henkel and Susan Bishop found that out on Friday when they put on their READiculous show for kids at the Decatur Public Library, where they read aloud and act out a series of children's books.
Henkel was a little girl who'd lost her bear and couldn't find it anywhere. Her mother, father and sister were all too busy to help her look and besides, she was always losing things. She had to find it herself.
Except she didn't, because 5-year-old Graham Fay, visiting grandma Paulette Fay for Christmas from Michigan, called out several times, "I see your bear!" and finally got up and went to show her where it was.
"We practice in the back room," Henkel said after the show. "We don't know how the kids are going to react, so it was a surprise."
The two women both enjoy acting and have a flair for it, but with part-time jobs as children's librarians, and families of their own, they don't have time to get involved with typical community theater activities. They cooked up the idea of a readers theater that they would perform for area schools, dramatizing children's books.
People often ask for activities to be held during the school break at Christmas, so it was a good fit to put on their show at the library, and a lot of children approached them afterward to ask where they could find the books used in the show.
A favorite series of books for the two women is Piggy and Elephant. Some 16 books are already in print and more keep coming, Henkel said. She wears a pig hat and Bishop the elephant, and they act out the simple stories with a lot of gusto because by now, they know the characters very well.
Another series of books is called "That's Good; That's Bad." In the story performed on Friday, a little boy has several adventures swinging on a vine that turns out to be a snake and accidentally waking up a lion, and each time one of the women said "That's good!" the other would counter with, "No, that's bad." It didn't take long for the kids to pick up on the rhythm and chant the words along with them.
It's fun to do the shows, Henkel said, not only because they never know what might happen, but because it gives both a chance to be kids again themselves.
"Some of the books we thought were bad (choices) were the best ones," she said.